AIDS: Getting To Zero

aids on paper with prescription pills on top( — The 2011 theme for World AIDS Day is “Getting to Zero.” On Thursday, December 1, World AIDS Day, President Obama will speak at an event hosted by the ONE Campaign and (RED), joining former presidents George W. Bush, Bill Clinton and others who have been so critical in the worldwide fight against AIDS.

A high-level panel discussion on reaching “the beginning of the end of AIDS,” will take place from 10 a.m. to 12 p.m. at George Washington University and streamed live on YouTube. Presidents Bush and Clinton will participate via satellite. Other panelists (participating live and via satellite) include President Jakaya Mrisho Kikwete of Tanzania; Congresswoman Barbara Lee (D-CA); Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL); Bono, lead singer of U2 and co-founder of ONE and (RED); singer Alicia Keys, co-founder of Keep a Child Alive; Dr. Patricia Nkansah-Asamoah, director of PMTCT Clinic at Tema Hospital in Accra, Ghana; Florence Ngobeni, HIV educator and ambassador for the Elizabeth Glaser Pediatric AIDS Foundation; and Kay Warren, founder, HIV & AIDS Initiative, Saddleback Church in California.

The panelists will respond to questions from a moderator, as well as to a selection of questions submitted by citizens on YouTube. Organizers say they hope to build on progress already made in the fight against the devastating virus.

The Presidential Advisory Council on HIV/AIDS has commended the Obama Administration on its leadership and investment in the domestic and global AIDS epidemics and for maintaining the previous administration’s commitment to prioritize global HIV/AIDS prevention, care and treatment.

Not only has the United States’ leadership saved the lives of millions, American-funded research has identified interventions that, if effectively implemented, hold the promise of ending the AIDS pandemic in our lifetime. Science has made it possible for us to begin to end the AIDS pandemic, and that we as a nation are committed to this goal.

The Presidential Advisory Council on HIV/AIDS states that, in response to the goverments ongoing committment to ending AIDS, it will publicly support the President’s leadership and commitment to several realistic actions:

1. An announcement on World AIDS Day 2011 that science has made it possible for us to begin to end the AIDS pandemic, and that we as a nation are committed to this goal.

2. Based on research establishing that AIDS treatment is also HIV prevention, a commitment to scale up AIDS treatment to cover six million people by 2013 along with other evidence-based, combination prevention interventions through the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR).

3. A challenge to donor and affected countries to increase investments in the response to HIV/AIDS and to join the United States in a “step up” effort to scale-up high-impact efforts— from condom distribution to antiretroviral treatment access—that can greatly reduce both deaths and new infections.

4. A pledge to move forward on ending the AIDS epidemic in the United States and to address disparities, including the disproportionate impact of HIV on Black Americans, by continuing to implement the National HIV/AIDS Strategy (NHAS) with a commitment of resources for HIV prevention, care, treatment, housing and other support services to meet the NHAS targets, and to forcefully defend full implementation of the Affordable Care Act, including the federal commitment to the Medicaid program, with its potential to greatly enhance prevention and treatment of HIV.

5. A commitment to defend global health budgets including a bold commitment to fund PEPFAR, the administration’s multi-year Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria pledge, and domestic HIV research, prevention, care and housing programs in appropriations and debt negotiations in fiscal year (FY) 2012 and beyond.

6. A call for new investments in research coupled with public-health driven research and development incentive mechanisms and policies to make new tools and technologies available that will help bring an end to the AIDS crisis.

Leadership on these important initiatives must be grounded in a human-rights based approach that responds to the prevention, care and treatment needs of all people, including key affected populations such as women and girls, children, men who have sex with men, transgender persons, sex workers and injection drug users. It is our sincere belief that the end of AIDS is within our grasp and that we can get to zero.  By fully implementing the tools that United States-funded research has brought us, we could radically change the course of this epidemic in our lifetime.  We urge President Obama to seize this moment of opportunity and publicly declare his support for and commitment to this goal.