U.S. President Barack Obama set an ambitious goal for significantly increasing access to life-saving AIDS drugs for people in the U.S. and around the world, as he announced a renewed American commitment to ending a pandemic that has killed 30 million people.

"We can beat this disease," Obama declared, as he announced the new initiatives during a World AIDS Day event in Washington. Former U.S. Presidents George W. Bush and Bill Clinton also  participated via satellite.

Obama pledged U.S. support to help an additional 2 million people in countries hardest hit by the virus get access to antiretroviral drugs by the end of 2013, and announced plans to boost  spending on HIV treatment in the U.S. by $50 million US.

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"The rate of new infections may be going down elsewhere, but it's not going down here in America," he said Thursday. "There are communities in this country being devastated still by this disease. When new infections among young, black, gay men increase by nearly 50 per cent in three years, we need to do more to show them that their lives matter."

As part of Obama's new initiatives, the U.S. will also aim:

  • To get antiretroviral drugs to 1.5 million HIV-positive pregnant women to prevent them from passing the virus to their children.
  • Distribute more than 1 billion condoms in the developing world in the next two years
  • Fund 4.7 million voluntary medical male circumcisions in eastern and southern Africa over the next two years.

Research shows circumcisions reduce the risk of female-to-male HIV transmission by more than 60 per cent.

Obama also criticized countries he said have not made a pledge to the Global Fund or have not kept their promises.

He mentioned China and other major economics that he says must step up as donors.