Today, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton released the U.S. government's "Blueprint for an AIDS-Free Generation," providing a road map for how the world can control the spread of HIV. The document explains that by more effectively applying the tools and knowledge we already have, we can create a generation with no new HIV infections, no AIDS-related deaths and no children orphaned because their parents died of AIDS.
How is the end of AIDS possible? In part because the antiretroviral treatment used to sustain the health of people with HIV reduces -- by 96 percent -- the chance the virus can spread. Treatment is prevention. Therefore, the more people who are tested for HIV and get medication, the fewer who contract the virus, get sick and die. The Blueprint shows that upfront investments to support the rapid scale-up of lifesaving AIDS treatment will yield significant savings -- of both lives and dollars -- in the near future.
Achieving an AIDS-free generation will require more from us all. Stakeholders and governments in heavily-affected countries should ramp up their efforts and investments to ensure that their citizens who are in the prime of their lives remain healthy enough to raise a family and work. Extending health care access to more people at risk for and living with HIV -- including children -- is more than just a humanitarian endeavor. It is that, and also all people are equally deserving of the same shot at life. But an expansion of care for people with HIV also helps build and strengthen infrastructures capable of delivering much better health to many more people for all manner of health concerns. The same channels through which AIDS medications reach people can also be used to administer medical solutions for polio, malaria and tuberculosis.
Healthy populations also underpin economic growth and sustainable development. Today's investments yield long-term dividends. Realizing an AIDS-free generation, and perhaps one day even an AIDS-free world, would free significant resources that we could apply to other development challenges.
For the Blueprint to be a success, the funding to implement it must be secured. Advocates will need to lobby President Obama to ensure that specific targets are attached to the Blueprint, that progress is tracked and that adequate resources are allocated quickly to fund accelerated, up-front investments. That's no small order in the current global economic environment and in light of the political gridlock in Washington over plans to correct the U.S. federal deficit.
But if there was ever a clear justification for finding more money to fight AIDS, the Blueprint is it. History shows when we take action before the peak of disaster, enormous gains can be realized. If more world leaders support a bold plan like the Blueprint, we could find ourselves on the flip side of the global disaster of AIDS that much faster.
Given that America's leadership in the fight sets the stage for global investment in funding for HIV/AIDS, the United States must continue to lead the charge. The president's decision to cut the FY 2013 budget for the President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) by $500 million sent a confusing message about America's determination to push as hard as possible for an AIDS-free generation. President Obama's bold support of the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis, and Malaria over the past few years sets the precedent for his continued leadership during his second term. We hope to see increases -- both in terms of pace and amount allocated -- in the U.S. government's support. Now is the moment for President Obama and the new Congress to step up and match the intent of the Blueprint with the resources necessary to overcome AIDS.
While America's leadership matters, the end of AIDS cannot be underwritten solely by the United States. It also requires the leadership of other nations and the support of large multilateral health funds, such as the World Bank and the Global Fund -- two organizations with recent reforms and fresh leadership that are well poised to efficiently deliver AIDS-ending resources. Engaging more nations will require people with and without HIV encouraging their leaders to better fight HIV at home and abroad. The U.S. blueprint has already begun to reverberate; activists in the United Kingdom have called upon their government to offer a similar plan for the end of AIDS.
The fact that ours could be the generation that launches an endgame for AIDS has heightened the moral imperative -- we simply must take the critical next steps to end AIDS now that science proves it can be achieved. If enough global citizens, people of faith, members of the private sector and world leaders summon the courage to accelerate and increase their investments in the global AIDS fight, we have a very good chance of containing the worst viral scourge the world has ever known.
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