How American compassion, vision and innovation can end the AIDS epidemic
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For the past 15 years, the vision and generosity of the United States have saved millions of lives and stopped AIDS from becoming a global security risk. The majority of the 18 million people on HIV treatment today owe their lives to the United States. American investments are enabling millions of people to live healthy lives and contribute meaningfully to their societies and economies.

I have witnessed directly the healing and hope that has been the hallmark of America’s engagement. Fifteen years ago, many countries in Africa faced despair, with entire families and communities lost to AIDS.   


Today, I visit these same places and meet people living with HIV who are thriving. I see families and communities whole again. I see a new generation of children born free from HIV.  


In fact, the world is significantly closer to eliminating HIV transmission from mother-to-child, an important milestone set jointly by the United States Government and UNAIDS. Since 2009, new HIV infections among children have declined by more than 80 percent in some of the most affected countries. South Africa, the country with the largest AIDS epidemic, has reduced new infections among children by 84 percent since 2009.

There are also fewer orphans — mothers and fathers are alive and healthy because of treatment, allowing them to support their children to stay HIV-free as they grow up. The church, with its large network of hospitals across Africa, is at the forefront of delivering medicines and programmes for entire communities — transforming lives, rekindling hope.

Preventing the deaths of millions of people in the prime of their lives has helped to protect a generation and create a more stable world. Several years ago, former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice made this point while speaking in Washington, when she said, “where despair lingers, we are not safe.” In Africa, a continent with huge economic potential, an expanding and educated workforce, and a young and growing population, it is vital to end the AIDS epidemic for good

Since 2002, with bipartisan support bridging political administrations, the United States’ global strategy on AIDS, started by President George W. Bush and sustained by President Barack ObamaBarack Hussein ObamaObama praises marathon runners Eliud Kipchoge and Brigid Kosgei for 'remarkable examples of humanity's ability' Each of us has a role in preventing veteran suicide Why calls for impeachment have become commonplace MORE, has delivered unprecedented results. The American Congress has championed this work with Vice-President Pence, former Secretary of State John KerryJohn Forbes KerryHe who must not be named: How Hunter Biden became a conversation-stopper Rep. Joe Kennedy has history on his side in Senate bid Green groups line up behind Markey ahead of looming Kennedy fight MORE and former Senator Bill Frist playing pivotal early roles.

UNAIDS has been alongside the United States at each step, providing critical data about the epidemic and supporting the development of national strategies with clear goals and reporting mechanisms. We advocate for policies to accelerate access to HIV prevention and treatment for people in need. We are bringing governments, businesses and civil society together in an unprecedented coalition that has made extraordinary progress towards controlling the epidemic.  

In the past five years, the United States President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) has helped to double the number of people on HIV treatment. It has increased efficiency, cut the cost of delivery, engaged with communities and embraced diversity. Recently released PEPFAR results show that in Malawi, Zambia and Zimbabwe the epidemic is starting to come under control.

The United States has pioneered and supported key innovations and advances in science crucial to saving lives, and American researchers are at the forefront of finding a cure and vaccine for HIV.

It was welcome news that the 2017 budget reflected continued, strong bipartisan U.S. leadership on ending AIDS. Equally strong support is critical in 2018. Possible cuts to international assistance and U.S. global AIDS programs would have devastating consequences.

The United States is not alone in driving progress. As the world economy grows, countries increasingly are stepping up their own investments in responding to HIV. South Africa largely pays its own bill, as do most richer countries in Latin America and Asia. In 2015, resources contributed by low- and middle-income countries represented 57 percent of the total global resources available for AIDS. We must continue to build this momentum as we move with urgency to reach everyone in need.

The opportunity to end AIDS is real. However, a business-as-usual approach will cost us dearly. More than 18 million men, women and children living with HIV are without treatment. We must quicken the pace of action and we will need even stronger leadership to succeed. The next four years are crucial—they will determine whether we end the AIDS epidemic or whether it continues indefinitely.

The leadership of the United States that has brought us to this point is needed to finish the job. President Trump and leaders from both parties in Congress have a historic opportunity to lead the world in ending AIDS — a humanitarian victory that once seemed impossible, but one which is now within reach.

Michel Sidibé is the Executive Director of the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS) and Under-Secretary-General of the United Nations. Follow him on Tiwtter: @MichelSidibe

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