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World Aids Day

On the eve of the 25th World AIDS Day, President Barack Obama expressed hope, proclaiming that an “AIDS-free generation is within our reach.”

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“Each year on World AIDS Day, we come together as a global community to fight a devastating pandemic,” the president said in a proclamation issued Wednesday by the White House. “We remember the friends and loved ones we have lost, stand with the estimated 35 million people living with HIV/AIDS, and renew our commitment to preventing the spread of this virus at home and abroad. If we channel our energy and compassion into science-based results, an AIDS-free generation is within our reach.”

To that end, he says the nation has made significant strides toward strengthening scientific investments, building effective HIV/AIDS education and prevention programs, and bringing together public and private stakeholders.

Sunday, Dec. 1 marks the 25th year of World AIDS Day and the president also discussed plans to address disparities in care and prevention, especially among those with the greatest HIV burden, which in the U.S. is the African-American community.

African-Americans account for a higher proportion of infections at all stages of disease—from new infections to deaths, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. In 2010, the most recent figures available, African-Americans accounted for an estimated 44 percent of all new HIV infections among adults and adolescents (aged 13 years or older), despite representing only 12 percent to 14 percent of the population, the CDC says.

Noting the importance of early detection and treatment, President Obama points to an Executive Order issues in July that establishes the HIV Continuum Initiative. The plan addresses the disparities in care and prevention, especially among communities with the greatest HIV burden. Additionally, in November, he signed the HIV Organ Policy Equity Act, removing the ban on research into the possibility of organ transplants between people with HIV.

“My administration remains committed to reducing the stigma and disparities that fuel this epidemic,” the president said in the proclamation. “Beginning in 2014, the Affordable Care Act will require health insurance plans to cover HIV testing without any additional out-of-pocket costs. It will also prohibit discrimination based on HIV status and eliminate annual benefit caps. Under this law, we have already expanded Medicaid for working class Americans and banned lifetime limits on insurance coverage.”

The president said that the job to end HIV extends beyond the nation’s borders, which is why World AIDS Day is so important.

“This is a global fight, and America continues to lead,” he says. “The United States has provided HIV prevention, treatment, and care to millions around the world, helping to dramatically reduce new infections and AIDS-related deaths. This year we celebrate the 10th anniversary of the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR), a powerful bipartisan effort to turn the tide on this epidemic. Through PEPFAR, we are making strong global progress and are on track to achieve the ambitious HIV treatment and prevention targets I set on World AIDS Day in 2011.”

The first World Health Organization established the first World AIDS Day on Dec. 1, 1988. The 2013 theme is: “Shared Responsibility: Strengthening Results for an AIDS-Free Generation.”

“When the World Health Organization established the first World AIDS Day on December 1, 1988, treatment options for people living with HIV were practically nonexistent, and AIDS was almost invariably fatal,” Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius said in a statement released Friday. “Hope was in short supply, and there seemed to be little reason for optimism. I am grateful that the world is a very different place for the 25th annual World AIDS Day.

“Thanks to tremendous advances in our understanding of the disease and how to treat it, millions of individuals, both in the U.S. and around the globe, are now truly living with HIV,” Sebelius said.

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