WASHINGTON — President Barack Obama set an ambitious goal Thursday for significantly increasing access to life-saving AIDS drugs for people in the United States and around the world, as he announced a renewed American commitment to ending a pandemic that has killed 30 million people.
"We can beat this disease," Obama declared during a World AIDS Day event in Washington. Former Presidents George W. Bush and Bill Clinton participated via satellite.
Obama pledged U.S. support to help 6 million people in countries hardest hit by the virus get access to antiretroviral drugs by the end of 2013, increasing the original U.S. goal by 2 million. And he announced plans to boost spending on HIV treatment in the United States by $50 million.
"The rate of new infections may be going down elsewhere, but it's not going down here in America," he said. "When new infections among young, black, gay men increase by nearly 50 percent in three years, we need to do more to show them that their lives matter."
As part of Obama's new overseas initiatives, the United States will also aim to get antiretroviral drugs to 1.5 million HIV-positive pregnant women to prevent them from passing the virus to their children and distribute more than 1 billion condoms in the developing world in the next two years.
NYC recommends AIDS DRUGS upon HIV DIAGNOSIS: Health officials in the nation's largest city recommend that any residents be offered AIDS drugs as soon as HIV is diagnosed, an aggressive move that has been shown to prolong life and stem the spread of the disease.
Standard practice has been to have patients put off the expensive pill regimen, which can cost up to $15,000 a year, until the immune system weakens.
But New York City Health Commissioner Thomas Farley said recent studies have shown that the benefits of early treatment, combined with education and testing, appear to be a promising strategy to counter the epidemic.
More than 110,000 people in New York City are infected with HIV, more than in any other U.S. city. San Francisco, which had about 18,000 people living with HIV, is believed to be the only other major city to have made a similar recommendation, in 2010.