12/07/2011 04:24 pm ET | Updated Feb 06, 2012

Secretary of Health Calls for Local-Global Partnerships to End AIDS

Last Thursday was World AIDS Day, the 30th anniversary of the discovery of AIDS, and a major milestone in the fight against the epidemic. On a cool winter's night in our nation's capital with the trains of Union Station rumbling under their feet, a packed house of public health activists and policy makers came together to celebrate progress and remember those who have died of AIDS related diseases.

That morning President Obama, joined by former Presidents Clinton and Bush, pledged millions of dollars for international and domestic HIV prevention and treatment.

The message was clear: the value and impact of prevention and treatment has been proven, and now we can get to zero new infections and zero deaths. This is a paradigm shift in how the public health community talks and thinks about the HIV epidemic. It is difficult task with over 1.7 million people living with HIV in the U.S. and over 30 million in the world. The domestic and international AIDS research and activism must "join forces," according to Deborah von Zinkernagel of the President's Emergency Plan For AIDS Relief, to achieve an "AIDS free generation."

Keynote speaker, Secretary of Health and Human Services, Kathleen Sebelius praised PEPFAR and the Affordable Care Act and was determined to create local, national and global partnerships to "get to zero." As Washington squabbles over taxes and the deficit, and the Occupy movement calls for the 99 percent to fight for an end to corporate money in politics and just democracy, it was well-received to hear Sebelius declare "HIV is no place for partisanship."

In July 2012 the International AIDS Conference will be coming to the U.S. for the first time in 30 years. Washington, D.C., the U.S. city with the highest AIDS case rate, will be the host for the conference and George Kerr, executive director of the harm reduction center START at Westminister, is the co-chair of event coordination for the D.C. Community Coalition.

The Coalition presented its AIDS 2012 policy platform, which called for political leadership and research so that D.C. can gain real ground in the local fight against HIV surrounding the conference. The U.S. was barred from hosting the international AIDS conference until 2012 because of its policy of refusing to grant visas to people who were HIV positive. The shift in that policy is a sign of hope that the United States' has renewed its commitment to eradication of the epidemic.

With the giant patches of the AIDS quilt as a backdrop; the important decision-makers on the dais reaffirmed the crowd's feeling that we are gaining ground on the epidemic.

The Hope for Africa Children's Choir from Mukono, Uganda gave a beautiful performance with very frank language about the effects of AIDS that brought everyone to their feet.

The evening closed with a challenge from Kerr "we now know how to end AIDS: Will we?"