Saturday, December 1, 2012 at 7:18 AM

World AIDS Day

Posted by Anthony L. Hall

On August 3, 2011 the CDC published new HIV incidence estimates which show, among other things, that there has been a 21 percent increase for people aged 13-29, and that Blacks and Hispanics continue to be the groups most affected by (or infected with) HIV.

In fact, Blacks represent only 14 percent of the U.S. population but accounted for 44 percent of all new HIV infections in 2009; and Hispanics represent 16 percent but accounted for 20-percent.

Moreover, according to the UNAIDS 2011 Report on the Global AIDS Epidemic, there were 34 million people living with HIV worldwide at the end of 2010, which represents a 17-percent increase from 2001.

But if there’s a silver lining in all of the distressing statistics related to this epidemic it is that AIDS-related deaths are decreasing – from a peak of 2.2 million in the mid-2000s down to 1.8 million in 2010.

Indeed, it is important to appreciate that the reason the number of people living with HIV is on the rise is that more people have greater access to treatment. And former President Bill Clinton deserves special commendation in this respect.

He established the Clinton Health Access Initiative (CHAI) in 2002 as a:

…global health organization committed to strengthening integrated health systems in the developing world and expanding access to care and treatment for HIV/AIDS, malaria and tuberculosis…

Since its inception, CHAI has helped more than 2 million people access the medicines needed for treatment, which represents nearly half of all the people living with HIV and on treatment in developing countries.

(Clinton Foundation)

(Incidentally, the efforts of his Clinton Global Initiative, which he founded in 2005 to raise private funds to help alleviate poverty, create a cleaner environment, and increase access to health care and education, has Clinton now giving Jimmy Carter a run for the title of best former president in U.S. history.)

Having said that, it would be remiss of me not to commend former President George W. Bush for creating the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) in 2003, which has provided:

…$33 billion in funding thus far, making it the largest effort in history by a single nation to combat a single disease.

(The Hill, September 16, 2010)

Frankly, I was so impressed with PEPFAR and Bush’s unprecedented initiatives to promote development in Africa that I wrote a June 20, 2005 commentary entitled President Bush has done more for Africa than any other president.

On the other hand, I am constrained to note that, despite promising to increase funding for PEPFAR by $1 billion annually, President Barack Obama has failed to do so.

Since Obama came into office, U.S. donations to the Global Fund have flat-lined.

If funding remains at these levels, we could lose much of the progress we’ve made in the battle against HIV/AIDS. Marginal increases in funding and symbolic gestures just aren’t enough.

(The Hill, September 16, 2010)

To be fair, though, his failure may have been caused by the 2008 financial crisis, which had him borrowing money from the Chinese to bail out America’s banking and auto industries. Not to mention that, even if the money were available to increase funding, Obama would have had to contend with all of the Republicans who applauded Bush falsely accusing him of using American tax payers’ money to further some pan-African liberation agenda. (Absurd, I know; but they routinely make accusations that are even more patently absurd.)

Finally, I think Erving “Magic” Johnson deserves honorable mention for doing more than anybody to raise public awareness about HIV/AIDS and demonstrate how truly fulfilling life can still be for a person living with this deadly virus.

Keep hope alive….

Donate to the National AIDS Trust: here

Related commentaries:
Bush has done more for Africa

* This commentary was originally published on December 1, 2011 at 5:18 am

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