Washington (AFP) – President Joe Biden marked World AIDS Day on Wednesday with a speech declaring that an end to the epidemic in the United States is within reach.
“It’s not hyperbole to suggest that we are within striking distance,” he told an audience of activists and political supporters at the White House.
Biden’s speech outlined what the White House said was an administration plan for “redoubling efforts to confront the HIV/AIDS epidemic,” bringing it effectively to a close by the end of the decade.
The target is for a 75 percent reduction in new infections by 2025 and 90 percent by 2030.
Biden said the approach is centered on “innovative community solutions… to make sure that the latest, latest advances in HIV prevention, diagnosis and treatment are available to everyone.”
Biden also promised “aggressive action,” backed by a “historic” budget target of $670 million, to make sure the HIV response was more fair to people who had before been left out or suffered discrimination.
“As we look back in the past 40 years, where there’s been so much pain and suffering, it’s a testament… (that) we can do this. We can eliminate HIV transmission, we can get the epidemic under control in the United States and countries around the world.”
In the 40 years since US researchers encountered the first cases of what later became known as AIDS, there have been 700,000 US dead and more than 36 million fatalities worldwide.
Today, there are 1.2 million people in the US living with the disease, but “we celebrate the remarkable gains we have made,” the White House said in a briefing paper on the 2030 plan.
Between 2015 and 2019, new HIV infections fell eight percent, “a hopeful sign,” the White House said.
The shift Biden is ordering will aim to “aggressively reduce new HIV cases, while increasing access to treatment.”
Lessons from Covid
According to a senior Biden administration official, one of the innovations will be to accelerate the private sector’s participation in a “national effort.”
Focus will also be put on “addressing social determinants of health that influence an individual’s HIV risk or outcomes.”
According to the official, the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic could ultimately strengthen the health care system in the even lengthier struggle against AIDS.
The response to the coronavirus crisis has spurred advances in self-testing at home and telehealth, as well as boosting the role for pharmacies — all ways to engage the public in a complex health care endeavor.
Top US infectious diseases specialists, including Biden’s lead medical advisor Anthony Fauci, brought years of experience from fighting AIDS to the Covid-19 crisis. Now, new lessons gained during the pandemic may be applied to AIDS.
“We’re looking forward to seeing what additional insights and knowledge and expertise researchers have gained through fighting this virus that can now be applied to our search for a vaccine and a cure for HIV,” the senior official said.
The United Nations said Monday that HIV infection rates are not slowing fast enough around the world to reach the goal of eradicating AIDS everywhere by 2030.