Since it was first reported in 1981, the AIDS virus has killed nearly 30 million people. Can the world ever be free of AIDS? Well, if the vision that U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton outlined today comes to pass, then the answer is yes.
Speaking at the National Institute of Health in Washington, Clinton said "creating an HIV-free population has never been a government priority [for the United States] - until today. Today it is possible because of scientific advances". She went on to ask her government and its allies to scale up funding for HIV/AIDS prevention and treatment, in a bid to try to "change the course of this pandemic and usher in an AIDS-free generation".
This marks the beginning of a whole new direction for the U.S. AIDS campaign. Through the President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) program, the U.S. government has channeled billions of dollars into the fight against HIV/AIDS, but never with a specific focus on ending the disease. The new plan focuses on three key preventive measures: 1) preventing mother to child transmission, 2) voluntary male circumcision, and 3) treating the disease with anti-retroviral drugs.
Clinton also announced at today's event that Ellen DeGeneres will be the new Special Envoy for Global AIDS Awareness. She will use her celebrity status to raise awareness about the global fight against AIDS.
Dr. Julio Montaner was on the show a few years back to talk about the challenges of combating HIV/AIDS, both in this country and around the world. At that time, Dr. Montaner pointed out how important it is to properly treat mothers in order to prevent them transmitting the disease to their children. You can watch that interview right here.