September 3, 2015 at 2:49 pm EDT | by Michael K. Lavers
Kerry: U.S. ‘working towards’ AIDS-free generation

John Kerry, gay news, Washington Blade, U.S.-Africa Leaders' Summit

Secretary of State John Kerry on Sept. 3, 2015, during a diplomatic reception at the State Department reiterated the Obama administration’s support of a so-called AIDS-free generation. (Photo courtesy of the State Department)

Secretary of State John Kerry on Wednesday during a diplomatic reception at the State Department reiterated the Obama administration’s call for a so-called AIDS free generation.

“That’s our dream,” he said. “That’s what we’ve been working towards. And unlike some dreams people grow up with or take on in the course of public life, which really just get dashed against the bureaucratic resistance or the indifference of people in various places, this is one where we have really been able to make a difference.”

U.S. Global AIDS Coordinator Deborah Birx, who oversees the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief, and gay U.S. Ambassador to the Dominican Republic James “Wally” Brewster were among the officials and diplomats who attended the reception that took place in the Treaty Room. Tom Frieden, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, was also in attendance.

The reception took place less than two weeks before the U.S. Conference on AIDS will take place in D.C.

’We will defeat this horrible disease’

Kerry during his remarks noted PEPFAR is now providing antiretroviral treatment to 7.7 million men, women and children.

He did not specifically mention the epidemic’s continued impact on men who have sex with men, transgender people and other LGBT-specific populations that remain particularly vulnerable to the epidemic. Kerry during his remarks noted that women and girls account for nearly 60 percent of the people living with HIV in sub-Saharan Africa.

“We absolutely can achieve this dream of an AIDS-free generation,” said Kerry. “We can and we will defeat this horrible disease.”

“I can remember when talking about HIV/AIDS was talking about a death sentence,” he added. “And all of you remember that too. And I remember a lot of friends of mine who kept talking to me about how many funerals they were going to. How different life was in this country.”

PEPFAR money funds a number of initiatives around the world that seek to combat the epidemic among LGBT-specific populations. These include the dissemination of information on HIV testing, condom use and other safer-sex practices to men who have sex with men in Central America through the Pan-American Social Marketing Organization.

A second PEPFAR-funded program that uses social media to disseminate HIV-prevention information reached an estimated 92 percent of gay and bisexual Ghanaian men in 2012. The Center for Integrated Training and Research, an HIV/AIDS service organization based in the Dominican capital of Santo Domingo, also receives PEPFAR funding.

Uganda receives nearly $300 million each year through PEPFAR to fight the HIV/AIDS epidemic in the African country. The U.S. last year did not renew a program with the Ugandan Ministry of Health that helps fund Kampala’s response to the virus in response to the Anti-Homosexuality Act that President Yoweri Museveni signed into law.

Michael K. Lavers is the international news editor of the Washington Blade. Follow Michael

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