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Biden marks World AIDS Day with new actions to end HIV epidemic by 2030
President Biden marked World AIDS Day on Wednesday by announcing new actions to end the HIV epidemic in the United States, focused on prevention, equity, and eliminating stigmas.
"I want to make sure that everyone in the United States knows their HIV status, that everyone with HIV receives high-quality care and treatment that they deserve, and that we end the harmful sigma around HIV and AIDS," Biden said at an event at the White House.
"It shouldn't matter where you live in the country or how much money you make. We have to respond across the board to the HIV epidemic everywhere and support all people living with HIV," he added. "And critically, this strategy takes on racial and gender disparities in our health system that for much too long have effected HIV outcomes in our country."
The Biden administration unveiled an updated strategy on Wednesday, which provides a roadmap for the federal government through 2025 to reduce HIV infections, improve treatment, lessen health care inequities and combat discrimination and stigmas.
The president called out Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) as a longtime champion in the fight against HIV, noting it was a "political death sentence" 40 years ago to work on AIDS issues.
"Nancy, not a joke, you were the one who started that fight in a way that you took it on with such passion. It was viewed as a political death sentence to take this issue on at the time but you did it, you fundamentally changed the way we looked at this," Biden said.
"You even got George Bush to lead on this," he added of the 43rd president.
The north portico of the White House was decorated with a two-story tall red ribbon on Wednesday for World AIDs Day, which Biden said is to "remember how far we've come, the work we have left to finish."
The administration asked Congress for $670 million for the Ending the HIV Epidemic in the United States initiative and reestablished the Office of National AIDS policy.
The president also spoke about laws and attitudes about HIV that he said perpetuate discrimination.
"We have to follow science and that means eliminating laws that perpetuate discrimination, exacerbates disparities, discourage HIV testing, and takes us further away from our goal. We are do this and as we accelerate our efforts at home, we're not going to let up on our efforts to fight HIV AIDS globally," Biden said.
He recalled when a senator - who he didn't name because he is deceased and "can't defend himself" - said that HIV is God's punishment. Biden added that conservative pastor Jerry Falwell said the same thing.
"Think how much has changed," Biden said. "Back in those days, there wasn't the willingness of other members of the Senate and the House to stand up and take him on."
Biden was introduced by Gabriel Maldonado, the CEO of TruEvolution, an organization that offers HIV prevention and care services. Biden brought Marguerite Wheeler-Lara, Maldonado's mother, on stage and called her the inspiration for his work.
During the 2020 presidential campaign, Biden pledged to release an updated version of the strategy that aims to end the HIV epidemic. The first version was conceived under the Obama administration in 2010, when Biden was vice president.
The administration is aiming get the number of new HIV infections down to 3,000 in the year 2030, down from an estimated 34,800 in 2019.
The new strategy is guided by four goals: preventing new infections, improving health outcomes for those with HIV, addressing disparities in access to care for those at risk for HIV, and better coordinating the national response to HIV.