World AIDS Day

By Kathleen Sebelius, Secretary of Health and Human Services
Posted June 29, 2010

Today, we recognize World AIDS Day. World AIDS Day is an opportunity to remember those we have lost to the HIV pandemic and to honor those who fight against the virus. It is also a day to celebrate the gains we have made in responding to HIV around the world, and to look ahead with hope and purpose at the next steps we can take in our fight against HIV/AIDS.

In the last year, with President Obama’s leadership and the dedicated work of countless scientists, policymakers, community leaders, and individuals whose lives have been affected by HIV/AIDS, we have taken some important steps forward. To name just a few:

  • We unveiled our country’s first-ever comprehensive national HIV-AIDS strategy that will focus our resources where they can make the biggest difference. 
  • We enacted the Affordable Care Act, which provides better and more comprehensive care for people living with HIV/AIDS and is perhaps the most important piece of HIV/AIDS legislation since the Ryan White Care Act.
  • We lifted the entry ban on HIV-positive travelers, eliminating a barrier that kept families apart and perpetuated the stigma of HIV/AIDS.
  • The President signed a law ending the longstanding ban on most federal funding for needle exchange programs—giving us more opportunities to stop the spread of HIV among injecting drug users.
  • The Department of Health and Human Services reallocated $25 million to extend care to people on state waiting lists for medication to treat HIV infection.
  • NIH-led scientists have found antibodies that prevent most HIV strains from infecting human cells, creating growing optimism that we may be close to finding a way to stop HIV before it gains a foothold in the human body.

We have come a long way. But we still have a long way to go.

New data shows that 55 percent of American adults—and more than a quarter with a higher risk factor—have never been tested.

So we’re collaborating with other government agencies to put resources where the risk is, focusing on the most at-risk populations—including African Americans, Latinos, men who have sex with men, and injecting drug users—to encourage them to be tested, and to help them get care and treatment if they are HIV-positive.

We’ve launched the “HHS 12 City Project,” an innovative effort to support comprehensive planning and cross-agency response in 12 communities hit hardest by HIV and AIDS.

And under the Affordable Care Act, we will provide better and more comprehensive care to people who are living with HIV/AIDS by expanding Medicaid and creating a new health care marketplace where uninsured Americans with chronic conditions who had previously been shut out of our health insurance system will be able to get coverage. 

Since the first World AIDS Day 23 years ago, we have experienced enormous loss and witnessed terrible suffering. But we have also seen great progress.

Now, we must build on that progress to improve prevention, increase access to care, reduce disparities, and move closer to the day when we can relegate HIV/AIDS to the history books.