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World AIDS Day UNAIDS Event

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December 1, 2011
Washington, D.C.

Thank you for that kind introduction, Helene.

Two years ago, I had the honor of appointing Helene to serve as the Chair of the Presidential Advisory Council on HIV/AIDS. In that role, she has brought decades of experience in health, global development and humanitarian efforts to our nation’s fight against HIV/AIDS. We’ll miss her leadership, her knowledge, and her passion, but I know she will continue to be a great ally in this fight.

Helene is leaving behind a big pair of shoes to fill. Fortunately we have the right person to fill them. Today, I’m pleased to announce that Nancy Mahon, the Global Executive Director of the MAC AIDS Fund will be the next Chair of the President’s Advisory Council. Nancy has built a remarkable career leading major HIV/AIDS organizations around the country, and she’s the perfect choice to lead our fight against HIV/AIDS into the future. I’m so pleased that she is willing to take on this important role and I look forward to working closely with her.

I also want to recognize a few other folks, starting with our departing Director of the Office of National AIDS Policy, Jeff Crowley. Jeff has brought a new energy and direction to our country’s battle against HIV/AIDS and he deserves much of the credit for all of the momentum we have in that fight today. I have enjoyed working with him and learning from him and I look forward to working with him in the future.

In addition, I want to thank Deborah Von Zinkernagel, Deputy Global AIDS Coordinator at the State Department and her colleagues for their tireless work to end the AIDS epidemic.

And I want to acknowledge two of our great partners in fighting this disease abroad and at home, UNAIDS and the DC Community Coalition.

World AIDS Day is always a significant day, but this year – the 30th anniversary of the discovery of AIDS – has a particular poignancy. This anniversary is a chance to look back and remember those we have lost to this epidemic – nearly 30 million around the world and nearly 600,000 men, women and children here in the United States. But it is also a chance to look ahead. And today, we can look ahead with more hope and purpose than we have in years.

The theme of this World AIDS Day – “Getting to Zero” – is possible because of the great strides we have made in recent years.

We now have proven prevention strategies that have dramatically reduced the number of infections here and around the world. We also have made remarkable advances in care and treatment that have allowed people living with HIV to enjoy long, healthy lives.

And in the past year, we’ve learned that treatment itself can also be one of the best forms of prevention. NIH funded researchers found that people being treated effectively for HIV reduced their risk of transmission to a partner by 96 percent. That is incredible news!

These tools have allowed us to imagine a future without AIDS. But challenges remain.

This month, CDC reported that nearly 3 out of 4 Americans living with HIV do not have their infection under control. That’s in part because 1 in 5 people with HIV don’t know they’re infected, and of those who do know, just over half receive the ongoing care and treatment they need.

These aren’t just statistics – they’re our family members, friends, and neighbors. And they need our help. That means expanding testing, getting people into and keeping them in care, ensuring access to life-saving drugs, and making sure people have the supports they need to keep their HIV under control.

Today, those goals are within reach – but only if we work together and focus our resources where they can make the biggest difference. And that’s what we have done under President Obama.

Last year, working with communities across the country and guided by the latest science, we developed an ambitious National HIV/AIDS Strategy that invests in the programs and interventions that have the biggest impact.

Today, I’m proud to say that plan is being turned into action. I see it every day in the federal government where our HIV/AIDS efforts have kicked into a higher gear. But what’s even more heartening is to see the states, communities and organizations around the country, many of them in this room, embracing the strategy.

Under President Obama, we’ve also increased overall funding to combat HIV/AIDS to record levels. But we know we can do more.

That’s why earlier today, President Obama announced a $35 million increase for the AIDS Drug Assistance Program through HRSA grants to states, an investment that will give thousands of people access to life-saving HIV/AIDS drugs. And he also announced an additional $15 million in funding for the Ryan White program that supports care provided by HIV medical clinics across the country.

In addition, we are continuing to implement last year’s health reform law which has the potential to dramatically improve access to care for people living with HIV/AIDS.

And we are building new partnerships. Just yesterday, the National Alliance of State and Territorial AIDS Directors announced a new agreement with Gilead Sciences to extend additional discounts and rebates for most of the Gilead medications purchased by state AIDS Drug Assistance Programs.

And today we received more good news. The MAC AIDS Fund announced that it will provide a half million dollars for patient outreach and education by Welvista, which since 2010 has partnered with pharmaceutical companies to provide donated drugs to uninsured individuals with HIV/AIDS on their state’s ADAP waiting list.

I applaud these efforts and echo the President’s words earlier today that the federal government can’t do it alone. In the coming weeks, I will convene a high-level meeting of potential partners looking to do more to join the fight against HIV and AIDS. We’ll identify opportunities to create the type of collaborations that NASTAD and MAC and so many of you here have built. We need more partners – state governments, foundations and drug companies – to help us fill in the gaps in care, especially during the next two years as health reform is fully implemented.

And that’s also true for our efforts to respond to HIV/AIDS around the world.

The President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief or PEPFAR created by President Bush in 2003 is one of the great success stories of the last decade, bringing life-saving treatment to millions of people around the world. Today, President Obama was joined by former Presidents Bush and Clinton to make clear to the world that when it comes to HIV/AIDS, there is no place for partisanship.

And we’ll continue to lead a global effort to bring additional resources to communities around the world where they can have a real impact, focusing on proven interventions like reducing mother-to-child HIV transmissions and voluntary male circumcision.

I know all of you will continue to fight alongside us to build on these successes and bring health and hope to more people around the world.

Behind me, is a section of the AIDS Memorial Quilt which began in 1987, and today has more than 40,000 panels representing the lives of some of the people we have lost to HIV/AIDS. When the Quilt came to Washington more than 15 years ago – it filled the entire National Mall.

But there will be a day when this quilt stops getting bigger. There will be a day when the last patch is sewn on.

Today, that day is on the horizon. And if we continue the hard work that has brought us this far, I know we can it reach it together.

Thank you.