On World AIDS Day
World AIDS Day gives us an opportunity each year to assess the progress we have made together in the fight against HIV/AIDS and to consider what more we can do to help alleviate poverty and disease at home and in the developing world.
This year's World AIDS Day theme is 'Keep the Promise — Leadership.' It is a reminder that we all must do more. Across the developing world, HIV/AIDS is devastating productive members of these societies, discouraging economic development and orphaning millions of children.
Last week, UNAIDS and the World Health Organization released more accurate figures that reduce the number of people estimated to be living with HIV and new HIV infections. While the report is welcome news, the numbers are still staggering: 2.5 million new HIV infections each year, and a worldwide total of 33 million people infected with HIV. The need for stronger U.S. leadership and a sustained commitment from the international community is clear.
I am proud that one of the first actions taken by the new Congress was to provide $4.5 billion for global AIDS initiatives, representing a $1.3 billion increase over the previous year. We followed up this year by passing an additional $6 billion commitment for global AIDS — the highest levels of funding ever appropriated by the U.S. to fight infectious diseases worldwide.
We have an opportunity to do even more. Congress will soon consider legislation to reauthorize the President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR). This is an opportunity to show that America stands with developing nations as they fight this deadly disease. Greater investments in treatment and care can strengthen health systems and give new hope to millions, and a renewed focus on education and the elimination of gender-based violence can make significant strides in preventing a new generation of HIV-infected young people.
Recently reported increases in both new HIV infections and new AIDS cases in the United States call out for stronger leadership domestically as well. This year, Congress passed the largest increase in seven years for the Ryan White initiative, which provides care and treatment to more than half a million low-income people living with HIV/AIDS. Significant increases are also pending for HIV prevention, the Housing Opportunities for People with AIDS program, and health research at the National Institutes of Health. In addition, the Early Treatment for HIV Act, which I first introduced nearly a decade ago to expand Medicaid coverage to allow people living with HIV to stay healthy and active, was reintroduced earlier this year with strong bipartisan support in both the House and Senate. Keeping people healthy saves lives. It is good health policy. We must pass this bill and we will.
On World AIDS Day, let us renew our commitment to stop this deadly disease and to a future where AIDS is no longer a threat.