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Hillary Clinton: AIDS-free generation ‘within our sight’

BY NATASHA BARSOTTI – An AIDS-free generation is not just "a rallying cry" but within reach," outgoing American Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said in a Nov 29 statement, but she cautioned that “the landscape of global health is littered with grand plans that never panned out,” The Washington Post reports.

Clinton established the goal last year, saying that while it may be ambitious, it is possible with current knowledge and interventions. "That is something we’ve never been able to say without
qualification before," she said in November 2011. But she warned Nov 29 that the task of achieving that goal is beyond the capability of one government or country. "It requires the world to share in the responsibility. We call on partner countries, other donor nations, civil society, faith-based organizations, the private sector, foundations, multilateral institutions and people living with HIV to join us as we each do our part."

A 64-page roadmap entitled "PEPFAR Blueprint: Creating an AIDS-Free Generation" highlights the strategies considered pivotal in reaching that goal. They include working toward the elimination of new HIV infections among children by 2015 and keeping their mothers alive; increasing coverage of HIV treatment both to reduce AIDS-related mortality and to enhance HIV prevention; increasing the number of males who are circumcised for HIV prevention; and increasing access to, and uptake of, HIV testing and counselling, condoms and other evidence-based, appropriately targeted prevention interventions.

PEPFAR, the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief, a program started by former president George W Bush, currently spends about $6.6 billion a year on AIDS in at least 34 countries, The Post notes.

"In many high-prevalence countries, the number of people becoming
infected with HIV each year exceeds the number being started on
antiretroviral therapy — a state that will lead to continued growth of
the epidemic," the report adds, citing examples such as the Democratic Republic of Congo, where 4.9 people become infected for every 1 infected person who starts therapy; Nigeria, with a ratio of 4.8 to 1; Tanzania, at 3.8 to 1; and Rwanda, at 2.1 to 1. 

The Guardian notes that a report from UNAIDS last week indicated that the rate of infections over the last decade had dropped by more than half in 25 low- and middle-income countries, including Zimbabwe, with a drop of 50 percent, and Malawi, with a drop of 73 percent.

"As we continue to drive down the number of new infections and drive up the number of people on treatment, eventually we will be able to treat more people than become infected every year. That will be the tipping point. We will then get ahead of the pandemic and an AIDS-free generation will be in our sight," Clinton suggests.

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