Editor’s note: The Star Observer, an Australian LGBT newspaper, continues to provide the Washington Blade coverage of the 2014 International AIDS Conference from Melbourne, Australia.
Bill Clinton has told a gathering at the International AIDS Conference in Melbourne today that an AIDS-free generation is not far away.
The former U.S. president was the guest speaker at a special session focusing on the current state of treatment and prevention of HIV and AIDS, as well as the work that still needs to be done.
His context was mainly in Africa and South East Asia, where HIV and AIDS is not just prevalent in gay populations, and where his charity organization the Clinton Health Access Initiative (CHAI) has done work to improve access to treatment and monitoring of HIV and AIDS.
Shortly after Clinton began his speech, he was interrupted by a small group of protesters who made their way down the front of the auditorium, chanting “Clinton end AIDS with the Robin Hood tax.”
The tax refers to a levy on stock trades to help fund the fight against HIV and AIDS, and a session on the Robin Hood tax is part of the AIDS 2014 line-up.
Clinton remained calm during the protest, letting them have their say and security did not interrupt.
The former president then asked the audience, “have you got the message?” while the protesters continued chanting. He then said: “give them a hand and ask them to let the rest of us talk”, to which the protesters made their way back to their seats.
Clinton continued his speech, first honoring the victims of flight MH17, in particular the AIDS 2014 delegates who were on board.
“There’s been a lot of understandable honor paid to the colleagues we lost in the airplane crash and I would like to begin by trying to put their lives in the context of this work and the larger struggle abroad in the worlds of AIDS,” he said.
He went on to say how everyone is born as part world where people are interdependent on each other for a common good.
“The loss of our colleagues and more than 290 others in what appears to have been a deliberate act is a stark reflection on the negative forces of our interdependence,” he said.
Clinton then went on to talk mainly about the state of HIV and AIDS in the world, and the role CHAI has played in making a difference in many parts of the world.
He said two million people are infected with HIV every year, which includes 20,000 children per month, and new data from 51 countries indicates that 70 per cent of AIDS-related deaths could have been prevented.
He highlighted how growing evidence has shown that early treatment helps prevent further HIV transmission, and stressed that achievements made in the fight against AIDS in the past three decades should not be an excuse for people to become complacent.
“The AIDS-free world that so many of you have worked to build is just over the horizon. We just need to step up the pace,” he said. “We are on a steady march to rid the world of AIDS… we have the ability to see this effort through to end.”
Elias Jahshan is the editor of the Star Observer. The link to his original story is here.