Yesterday, people all over the globe commemorated World AIDS Day – a day when we remember the millions of lives lost and families affected by HIV/AIDS, and recognize the struggle of the over 35 million people worldwide living with HIV who carry the burden of this disease every day. It is in their honor that the U.S. remains steadfast in its commitment to achieve an AIDS-free generation.
Ten years ago, AIDS was a death sentence in Africa. It threatened the very foundation of societies – creating millions of orphans, stalling economic development, and leaving countries stuck in poverty. Today, too many people are still dying, but the progress that we have made is truly remarkable.
Globally, new HIV infections have declined nearly 33% over the past decade, and AIDS-related mortality has decreased by 30% since its peak in 2005.
Landmark scientific advances coupled with success in implementing effective programs have put the world at the point where an AIDS-free generation is in sight.
Combating this disease takes shared responsibility and partnership. Both the United States and the Holy See have done much to help those living with HIV/AIDS and prevent future transmission.
The Vatican estimates that Catholic Church-related organizations provide about 25% of all HIV treatment, care, and support throughout the world. In 2010, the Vatican reported that more than 5,000 hospitals, 18,000 dispensaries, and 9,000 orphanages, many involved in AIDS-related activities, were being supported by the Catholic Church.
This year, we also mark the 10th anniversary of PEPFAR (The President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief). PEPFAR is the largest effort by any nation to combat a single disease and directly supports nearly 5.1 million people on a
ntiretroviral treatment. This past June, Secretary of State Kerry announced that, to date, PEPFAR-supported programs have saved one million babies from being born with HIV, by preventing transmission from an HIV-positive mother.
The U.S. government’s theme for World AIDS Day 2013 is “Sharing Responsibility-Strengthening Results for an AIDS-free Generation” – a theme that reflects our belief that we can achieve more when we invest and work together to fight AIDS across the globe. The global fight against AIDS is a shared responsibility; donor nations, country partners, multilateral organizations, the private sector, civil society – including faith-based organizations – all have a role to play in the HIV/AIDS response.
By fighting AIDS, we are supporting the foundation of healthy, productive, and stable societies in which countries can better care for their own people — not just today, but over the long term.
We now know what we must do to achieve an AIDS-free generation, and together we can make it a reality.