Hilary Clinton Calls For “AIDS-Free Generation” In NIH Speech

Secretary of State Hilary Clinton laid out the agenda for the U.S.’s global war on AIDS this week in a speech at the National Institutes of Health on Tuesday.

“We have a chance to give countless lives and futures to millions of people who are alive today but equally, if not profoundly more importantly, to an entire new generation yet to be born…. The goal of an AIDS-free generation is ambitious, but it is possible. An AIDS-free generation would be one of the greatest gifts the United States could give to our collective future.

This goal would have been unimaginable just a few years ago. While the finish line is not yet in sight, we know we can get there because now we know the route we need to take.”

Secretary Clinton underscored the importance of both helping the 34 million people living with HIV and preventing new infections. “If we take a comprehensive view of our approach to the pandemic, treatment doesn’t take away from prevention. It adds to it,” she said. “So let’s end the old debate over treatment versus prevention and embrace treatment as prevention.”

She listed several encouraging developments, including the use of antiviral drugs to prevent mother-to-child HIV transmission, voluntary male circumcision, which has be shown to reduce the risk of female-to-male transmission by more than 60%.

Finding funding for these programs won’t be easy—The President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) shelled out more than $6.5 billion on AIDS prevention and treatment in 2010 alone—but Clinton sees this as an opportunity for the U.S. to take the reins in a positive way. “At a time when people are raising questions about America’s role in the world, our leadership in global health reminds them who we are and what we do,” she said.

A question lingers, though: Could this re-dedication to the cause be tied into why AIDS Czar Jeff Crowley is stepping down from his post as Director of the Office of National AIDS Policy at the end of the year?  Was Crowley’s agenda not in line with the Administration’s? It’ll be interesting to see who is tapped as his replacement.