“We are all sick because of AIDS - and we are all tested by this crisis. … When you go to places like Africa and you see this problem up close, you realize that it's not a question of either treatment or prevention – or even what kind of prevention – it is all of the above. … Yes, there must be more money spent on this disease. But there must also be a change in hearts and minds, in cultures and attitudes. Neither philanthropist nor scientist, neither government nor church, can solve this problem on their own - AIDS must be an all-hands-on-deck effort.”
[Barack Obama, World AIDS Day Speech, Lake Forest, CA, 12/1/06]
Newly inaugurated US President Barack Obama has said a lot of inspiring things, not the least of which are his comments on HIV/AIDS. Everything he says is right on target, exactly what we want to hear and exactly what we want to see happen. Not only is he promising an increase in funding to USD 50 billion for the global fight against HIV and doubling the number of people on treatment, but sending out the message that being free from living in fear of the disease is equally important.
The strategy outlined and the eloquence with which it’s delivered is a startling change from what we’re used to getting from America’s administration. One of my favorite parts of the plan is that they’ll use “best practices – not ideology – to drive funding for HIV/AIDS programs.” There has been some questionable usage of funding in the past, so it’s great to hear a solid commitment to basing funding decisions on reason and science.
They’ve also outlined plans to develop ARV delivery, health care infrastructures and access to clean drinking water. Though not specifically mentioned, I hope these developments also lead to universal access to the essential diagnostics used in treating patients with HIV, such as viral load monitoring, as it’s a vital next step in improving the lives of HIV patients.
Now we all know that what is promised during an election campaign doesn’t always end up turning into reality, but I’ve never seen the kind of hope for the future of the fight against HIV that President Obama has inspired. While I don’t believe every last thing that’s been promised will happen, I do believe that Obama’s new strategy will create a vast improvement in how the world approaches the pandemic. As the largest and most influential funder of HIV initiatives on the planet, that’s good news for a lot of people in many parts of the world. As President Obama said in the quote above, everyone is affected by AIDS.
Do your part to help the new administration deliver on the promises that have been made. The ideas and the funding are there, but it’ll take more than one man to make these changes a reality. Visit Obama’s website and check out the Events section. From there, you can organise or find HIV awareness events in your community. It’s open to people from all countries, so sign up and get out there.