The Obama administration on Saturday marked World AIDS Day with optimism the fight against the disease can be won.
Saturday marks the 25th time the globe has paused to remember the victims of AIDS and to renew efforts to end it.
In observation of World AIDS Day, a huge red ribbon has been placed on the north entrance to the White House.
The administration argues that it is now possible to foresee a generation free of AIDS.
“This Saturday, December 1st, on World AIDS Day, we will come together as a global community to stand with people affected by HIV/AIDS, to remember those we have lost, and to renew our commitment to ending the pandemic once and for all. We have made great strides in combating this disease, and an AIDS-free generation is within sight,” Obama said in a statement released this week.
Health and Human Service Secretary Kathleen Sebelius also argues that the fight is being won.
“When the first World AIDS Day was observed in 1988, we could not imagine the end of the HIV/AIDS epidemic. For those diagnosed with HIV infection, the future was bleak. This year, the picture is very different,” she wrote in her annual AIDS message this week.
On Saturday, Labor Secretary Hilda Solis recounted the administration’s past efforts in a blog post.
“Thanks to President Obama concluding a successful bipartisan effort to end the travel entry ban on people living with HIV, the International AIDS Conference at last returned to the United States for the first time in 22 years,” Solis wrote. “Through our department’s aggressive public education campaign, we inform workers of their rights and employers of their responsibilities under federal law – including that workers cannot be denied employment, harassed or otherwise discriminated against because of their HIV status.”
Looking ahead, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton this week unveiled a plan to bolster anti-AIDS efforts.
The roadmap was meant to combat critics who say the United States has lost focus on beating the disease.
The document emphasizes early treatment of HIV and investments in preventive measures, with the goal of ensuring that the number of new patients on antiretroviral treatments eventually exceeds the number of new HIV infections.
The blueprint argues that even the most AIDS-ridden countries can reach this point within five years.
The U.N. released an annual report in conjunction with World AIDS Day showing the number of people accessing life-saving treatment rose by 60 percent and new infections have fallen by half in 25 countries. AIDS-related deaths have dropped by a quarter since 2005, the report states.
“On this World AIDS Day, let us commit to build on and amplify the encouraging successes of recent years to consign HIV/AIDS to the pages of history,” United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said in his message for the day.
Still, the looming fiscal cliff of automatic spending cuts could hamstring the administration’s ambitious plans, activists are warning.
“If we go over the fiscal cliff, all the cuts would be equally applied, but not all the cuts would be equally felt. Tell Congress we have to protect the world’s most vulnerable,” the ONE campaign urged on its website on Saturday.