Clinton, AIDS Foundation of Chicago advance blueprints to end HIV/AIDS

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton unveiled the Obama Administration’s global HIV/AIDS policy on Thursday morning, ahead of World AIDS Day on December 1. “PEPFAR Blueprint: Creating an AIDS-Free Generation” is a detailed document establishing how the U.S. government will work to reduce the numbers of people infected with HIV/AIDS around the world.

Locally, the AIDS Foundation of Chicago is advancing its own plan, “Road to Health: Charting Health Improvements for HIV-Affected Communities.”

The President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief — known as PEPFAR and established by President George W. Bush in 2003 — created the national blueprint to follow through on promises made at the International AIDS Conference held in Washington, D.C., July 22 to 27.

“I want the next Congress, the next Secretary of State, and all of our partners here at home and around the world to understand everything we’ve learned and to have a road map for how the United States will contribute to an AIDS-free generation,” Clinton said in the government’s publication.

In her public remarks, she urged others to follow the government’s lead.

“Creating an AIDS-free generation is too big a task for one government or one country. It requires the world to share in the responsibility,” she said. “We call on our partner countries, other donor nations, civil society, faith-based organizations, the private sector, foundations, multilateral institutions and people living with HIV to join us as we each do our part.”

The document outlines specific goals: eliminate new HIV infections among children by 2015, increase coverage of HIV treatment to reduce deaths and bolster prevention, increase the number of male circumcisions to prevent the spread of disease, increase access to HIV testing and counseling, condoms and other tools of prevention.

How to achieve those goals include plans to shore up investments in community programming, raise participation of other governments and organizations to share in responsibility, and implement the latest science to improve results.

The State Department also issued statistics regarding the state of PEPFAR programming in the past year. It announced the U.S. government directly served nearly 5.1 million people with antiretroviral treatment as of Sept. 30. More than 11 million pregnant women received HIV testing and counseling, 15 million were provided with direct care and support, including more than 4.5 million orphans and vulnerable children, in 2012.

Having donated more than $7 billion to date, the U.S. is the largest contributor to the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria. A majority of the funds help African and Asian countries where rates of infection are high. Having the highest rate of infection, South Africa received the most U.S.-sponsored antiretroviral treatments to an estimated 1,651,800 people, as of Sept. 30.

Later in the day, President Obama issued a statement which mentioned domestic priorities.

“Here in the United States we are implementing a National HIV/AIDS Strategy and concentrating our efforts in communities where HIV rates are highest, including among gay men, Latinos, and African Americans,” the president said. “We are investing in comprehensive HIV prevention and care, including through the Affordable Care Act, to prevent infection and ensure that all people living with HIV have access to life-extending treatment.  Testing for HIV remains a top priority, and thanks to ongoing scientific advancements, finding out your HIV status has never been easier and treatment is more effective than ever.”

President Obama also issued a proclamation officially declaring Dec. 1 as World AIDS Day, instructing states and territories to commemorate the day.

Clinton’s and the president’s remarks were part of Thursday’s World AIDS Day programming in Washington. The White House hosted a commemorative event and discussion at noon that included as a panelist David Ernesto Munar, President and CEO of the AIDS Foundation of Chicago. The discussion was moderated by actress Rosie Perez.

“We applaud Hillary Clinton’s announcement of a blueprint to end AIDS,”  Johnathon E. Briggs of AIDS Foundation of Chicago told Chicago Phoenix. “The plan that Sec. Clinton announced mimics our own strategic plan, which we released in November.”

The AIDS Foundation identified three goals for its road map, guiding its programming through 2015.

“Our plan is organized around three broad goals: strengthening community health, leading integration of changing health systems and managing for better outcomes at each stage of HIV care,” Briggs said.

“These goals align not only with Sec. Clinton’s plan but also with the National AIDS Strategy which the Obama administration unveiled in 2010,” he said. “This news benefits Chicago and the world because it reminds us that we have the tools at our disposal to curb the epidemic. The question remains whether we can muster the economic and political will to do what is right.”

At its founding, President Bush pledged $15 billion to fight HIV/AIDS internationally through PEPFAR. Monies were used to distribute antiretroviral treatment to underserved communities and promote prevention programs. PEPFAR continued under President Barack Obama in 2008, increasing its funding. In 2009, he appointed Ambassador Eric Goosby as the U.S. Global AIDS Coordinator.

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About Gerald Farinas

An Edgewater Beach resident, Gerry is news director of Opus News. He is concurrently an Evanston-based social services professional and media consultant.