World AIDS Day Press Conference
Washington, DC - November 30, 2009
Thank you, Secretary Clinton. And thank you for being such an incredible ambassador and spokesperson for the American people.
I want to join Secretary Clinton in welcoming the International AIDS Conference back to the United States. The HIV entry ban was a policy that tore apart families. It kept people from getting tested. It forced others to hide their HIV status and forego lifesaving medications.
Most of all, it didn’t reflect America’s leadership in fighting this disease around the world. And it was a great feeling to sign the papers getting rid of the entry ban earlier this year.
But as we celebrate this step forward, it’s important that we also acknowledge how far we have left to go.
You just heard from Secretary Clinton about the great success that PEPFAR has had. You also heard that there are still too many places where too many people are acquiring HIV and dying too young from this disease.
So in PEPFAR’s next phase, our challenge will be to build on the successful interagency model we’ve created under the leadership of Secretary Clinton and Ambassador Goosby.
That means working with partner governments to create the kind of local health infrastructure that can sustain the health improvements we’re aiming for.
And as the head of a department that has 2000 employees in more than 40 countries working to implement PEPFAR, I can tell you we’re excited to take this next step.
But as big as our challenges and opportunities are around the world, we can’t forget that there is also more work to be done here at home.
According to the latest data, more than 56,000 Americans are newly infected with HIV each year. What is more disturbing is that this number isn’t going down.
If our results aren’t changing, our actions have to.
That’s why this summer, President Obama launched an ambitious campaign to develop a National HIV/AIDS Strategy that will reduce the spread of HIV…increase access to care and improve health outcomes for people living with HIV…and eliminate HIV-related health disparities right here in the US.
As part of that campaign, the director of our Office of National AIDS Policy Jeffrey Crowley and my department have spent the last few months hosting community meetings around the country to hear from state and local leaders and Americans living with HIV/AIDS about what the components of this strategy should be.
What we know is that we need to do a better job reaching the groups that have been hardest hit by HIV/AIDS. Here in Washington, DC, one in sixteen African-American men are HIV-positive. If you look at just gay men, the numbers are even more upsetting. In 2005, the CDC found that in five major cities, almost half of all African-American gay men were HIV-positive.
That’s why we recently launched a $45 million HIV education campaign called Act Against AIDS. It’s our first federal HIV education campaign in over 20 years, and it’s specifically targeted at underserved communities including racial minorities, women, and gay and bisexual men.
We’re also taking steps to make sure Americans get the care they need. Earlier this year, we reauthorized the Ryan White HIV/AIDS Program, which provides life-saving care to more than half a million Americans.
And we continue to work with Congress to pass health insurance reform that will prevent Americans from being denied coverage because of their HIV status and put a cap on their out of pocket expenses.
This World AIDS Day, we remember those we have lost, look back at the lives we’ve saved, and rededicate ourselves to reaching all those affected by HIV/AIDS, not just in foreign lands, but here in Washington, DC and in our communities around the country.
To talk more about the announcement we’re making today, I’d like to introduce a man who’s been working to help people with AIDS for as long as we’ve had a name for the disease, Ambassador Eric Goosby. Ambassador…