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Dr. Rajiv Shah

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World AIDS Day

Posted: 12/01/11 10:55 AM ET

For the first time since the AIDS virus surfaced, devastating communities and overwhelming nations, the world has the tools and knowledge to ensure an entire generation is born free from its scourge. By building on a strong legacy of progress and bipartisan support and relying on proven interventions and new breakthroughs, the United States is leading the world in making real the vision of an AIDS-free generation.

Our efforts at home and abroad have informed each other. HIV prevention and treatment approaches pioneered in Nairobi and Cape Town now benefit communities in the U.S. Thanks to President Obama's strong support of the President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief--better known as PEPFAR--millions of patients worldwide are able to receive affordable treatment that used to be out of reach.

At the same time, American researchers and pharmaceutical companies have made game-changing discoveries that are helping save millions of lives around the world.

Despite these successes, every day more people become infected than start treatment. Every day, more people -- many of them women and children -- join the ranks of the already 34 million living with HIV today. In order to end this devastating reality, we have to work faster, more effectively and more efficiently than ever before.

As Secretary Clinton recently said, our efforts must begin with the American people -- and our drive for innovation, unfailing sense of generosity and track record of breakthrough research.

To realize the future of an AIDS-free generation, we have to strategically focus our efforts on proven, cost-effective ways to fight against HIV/AIDS: stopping mother-to-child transmission, expanding voluntary medical male circumcision, supporting community adherence and investing in new biomedical tools.

But we also have to focus on propelling new advances.

Just a few months ago we saw new results that demonstrated the effectiveness of HIV medication taken orally, once a day, at not just treating HIV but preventing its transmission.

Discoveries like this may one day change the way we fight AIDS, both in America and in developing countries.

As the head of a federal agency dedicated to improving human welfare, I have seen firsthand the deeply moral, social and economic costs of HIV/AIDS: children who have been born HIV-positive and find the odds in life already stacked against them; businesses close in regions where HIV is rampant while hospitals fill up; and the despair fueled by a single disease.

This reality has always been unacceptable. For the first time, we can confidently say it is also avoidable. With the continued support of a remarkable bipartisan constituency of congressional leaders, faith-based institutions, multilateral alliances and private sector partners, we can build on the momentum of proven results and scientific discoveries.

Today, as we once again mark World AIDS Day, we should do so knowing the world finally has the ability to create a future without AIDS.

 

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