AIDS fight gets $150 million boost

Sir Elton John was one of the speakers Monday at the XIX International Aids Conference. (Associated Press)

U.S. gift buys help for poor countries

WASHINGTON – Science now has the tools to slash the spread of HIV even without a vaccine – and the U.S. is donating an extra $150 million to help poor countries put them in place, the Obama administration told the world’s largest AIDS conference Monday.

“We want to get to the end of AIDS,” declared the top U.S. HIV researcher, Dr. Anthony Fauci of the National Institutes of Health.

How long it takes depends on how quickly the world can adopt those tools, he said – including getting more of the millions of untreated people onto life-saving drugs that come with the bonus of keeping them from infecting others.

Some 34.2 million people worldwide are living with HIV, and 2.5 million were infected last year.

Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton said the goal is an AIDS-free generation.

Clinton said it’s possible to virtually eliminate the transmission of HIV from infected pregnant women to their babies by 2015, by getting the mothers onto anti-AIDS drugs. HIV-infected births are rare in the United States and are dropping steadily worldwide, although some 330,000 children became infected last year. Clinton said the U.S. has invested more than $1 billion toward that goal in recent years and is providing an extra $80 million to help poor countries finish the job.

Much of the AIDS conference is focused on how to get treatment to all people with HIV, because good treatment can cut by 96 percent their chances of spreading the virus to sexual partners.

A tougher issue is how best to reach particularly high-risk populations: gay and bisexual men, sex workers and injecting drug users. In many countries, stigma and laws that make their activities illegal drive those populations away from AIDS programs that could teach them how to reduce their risk of infection, Clinton said.

The U.S. will spend an additional $15 million on research to identify the best HIV prevention tools to reach those key populations in different countries, and then launch a $20 million challenge fund to support country-led efforts to implement that science. The world spent $16.8 billion fighting AIDS in poor countries, the hardest-hit, last year, and the United States is the leading donor.

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