Thirty years ago, when the fight against HIV first began, the reality of the epidemic was fairly bleak. AIDS was seen as a death sentence. In just a few years’ time, it left its mark around the globe, from San Francisco to South Africa.
But the past three decades have also seen tremendous progress in HIV research, prevention and treatment, much of it as a result of U.S. leadership.
Today, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton reminded us of our past successes and outlined a new way forward to create an AIDS-free generation
Speaking at the National Institutes of Health (NIH)
, one of the leading U.S. research agencies at the forefront of HIV/AIDS advances, Secretary Clinton described how U.S. investments in the global AIDS fight are paying off.
From the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR)
to the Global Health Initiative
and the Global Fund for AIDS, Tuberculosis, and Malaria
, U.S. support for global health programs are saving millions of lives and creating hope for the future.
In her remarks, Secretary Clinton highlighted one of the greatest but least known scientific success stories in the HIV/AIDS fight: preventing mother-to-child transmission of HIV.
While 1 in 7 new HIV infections occurs when a mother passes the virus on to her child during pregnancy, at birth, or during breastfeeding, Clinton stressed that the risk of transmission can be reduced to almost zero with access to appropriate medicines.
As part of a U.S. plan to create an AIDS-free generation
Secretary of State HIllary Clinton speaking
about U.S. investment at an HIV/AIDS event in
Zambia. (Photo: JHPIEGO)
, Clinton outlined a “combination prevention strategy,” joining together the latest scientific innovations to stop the spread of the disease.
For children, this would mean that virtually no child would be born with the virus; as children grow up, they would be at a lower risk of HIV infection; and if they do contract HIV, they would have access to treatment.
The Foundation’s President & CEO Chip Lyons released a statement
in support of Secretary Clinton’s call to end mother-to-child transmission of HIV. He reinforced the urgent need to ensure that all HIV-positive pregnant women receive the services they need to keep themselves healthy and their children HIV-free – and ultimately to end pediatric AIDS.
UNAIDS also responded with a statement
calling for shared responsibility to achieve a generation free of HIV, and expressed the crucial role of U.S. leadership in leading the fight.
Mothers like Sabina in Tanzania
are examples of how U.S. investment in global HIV/AIDS programs are transforming lives. Sabina learned she was HIV-positive when she was pregnant with her fifth child. But thanks to services provided through PEPFAR to prevent HIV transmission from mother to baby, Sabina gave birth to a healthy, HIV-negative boy.
Today, more women and their children have access to lifesaving antiretroviral medicines, but there is still much more to do.
In her remarks, Clinton acknowledged that while her plan is ambitious, it is possible: “An AIDS-free generation would be one of the greatest gifts the U.S. could give to our collective future.”
Eliminating AIDS in children is feasible. But to do so, we must build on past investments and current global momentum. With proper resources and political leadership, ending pediatric AIDS can be achieved within our lifetimes.
To read Secretary Clinton’s speech in its entirety, click here
Jen Pollakusky is a Senior Public Policy and Advocacy Officer based in Washington, D.C.