Why was it significant to host AIDS2012 in the U.S., specifically in Washington, D.C.?
Thanks to the Obama Administration, this meeting took place in the U.S. for the first time in more than 20 years, because of the elimination of HIV-related visa entry restrictions. As Americans, this should make us proud.
What should also inspire pride is that the conference came to our nation’s capital at a pivotal moment in our fight against AIDS, as we showed the world how we are addressing the issue here in America. In July 2010, President Obama launched the first comprehensive National HIV and AIDS Strategy, which addresses the domestic response to the epidemic – especially important here in Washington D.C., which is deeply impacted by HIV and AIDS.
For PEPFAR, it was a chance to communicate our impact to key domestic and international audiences. As of the midpoint of 2012, PEPFAR supported life-saving antiretroviral treatment for more than 4.5 million men, women and children worldwide, putting the U.S. on target to reach 6 million people with treatment by the end of 2013.
Why do you feel International AIDS Conference (AIDS2012) was one of the top 10 global health moments of 2012?
AIDS 2012 clearly highlighted how far we have come in responding to this virus. In presentation after presentation, we heard the incredible impact of scientific research and an evidence-based response to AIDS, both in the U.S. and around the globe. It was inspiring to hear how program implementers are translating recent scientific advances into practice to save lives.
At the conference, U.S. President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) participated in many technical sessions in which our staff and partner organizations like PSI had dialogue on best practices toward the goal of achieving an AIDS-free generation. Ultimately, the combination of this professional exchange, the sharing of lessons learned and the greater reliance on evidence-based interventions will contribute to a more effective global response.
Lastly, AIDS 2012 demonstrated real momentum toward a sustainable response. Everyone has a role to play, including host country governments, multilateral organizations, the private sector and civil society – including faith-based organizations. I think people now get that in a way they didn’t before and that’s great news.
You have been involved in the HIV and AIDS movement since the 1980s in San Francisco. What does the prospect of achieving an AIDS-free generation mean to you?
It’s true that the response to this disease has really defined my career, for over 30 years now. None of it has been easy, but we’ve come so far. The goal of achieving an AIDS-free generation would have been unimaginable just a few years ago. But because of major scientific advances that have been led by the U.S., we know we can get there, and our government is committed to doing its part to make it a reality, as Secretary Clinton and President Obama have made clear.
So it’s an exciting moment, and it is truly an honor to be leading a unified U.S. government effort to reach millions across the globe. We’re already seeing the beginning of the end, and I am full of hope that we can finally turn the tide against this devastating disease.