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GAA Calls on President Obama to Act on the Reality of AIDS

"This epidemic is far from over. Every year, almost three million people become infected with HIV, and two million die from AIDS-related diseases."

WASHINGTON, Nov. 30 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- On World AIDS Day 2009 the Global AIDS Alliance (GAA) calls on President Obama and his advisors to reflect on two recent alarming reports from the World Health Organization (WHO) showing that the AIDS pandemic continues to be of catastrophic proportion, affecting shockingly high numbers of people around the globe. These reports show, for example, that there are 33 million people worldwide living with HIV; that AIDS is the leading cause of death among women of childbearing years worldwide; and that globally, less than one-third of people who needed antiretroviral treatments for HIV infection in 2008 received them. Now, new treatment guidelines issued by the WHO on 11/30/09 increase UN estimates of the number of people eligible in 2010 to receive antiretroviral treatment (ART) from 13.7 million to as many as 18.7 million, making the need and urgency for scaled up U.S. responses even greater on this World AIDS Day.

The following is a statement from Dr. Paul Zeitz, GAA's executive director:

GAA has joined with other global health advocates in today issuing a World AIDS Day report card on the President's performance on the global AIDS crisis, giving him an overall minimally passing grade of D+.

President Obama's 2010 budget presented to Congress earlier this year virtually flat-lined HIV/AIDS funding, ignoring the staggering medical and epidemiological evidence that we need more, not less, to prevent and treat AIDS around the world. Mr. Obama's inaction is affecting America's ability to meet its commitment to the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, and to sustain the momentum of the President's Emergency Program for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) begun by President George W. Bush. When PEPFAR was reauthorized in 2008, funding levels were authorized that would have paid for the treatment about 40 percent of medically-eligible people globally, with most of those in Africa.

Going forward, newly-released treatment guidelines from the World Health Organization expand the definition and numbers of those who are medically eligible to include up to five million additional people, for a total of up to 18.7 million people who are in need of treatment. Those newly eligible for ART include persons with CD-4 counts under 350 (instead of the former limit of 200), and HIV-positive women who breastfeed their infants, both of which have been an existing standard of care in the global north, thereby eliminating a double standard for people living with HIV depending on where they live.

Under these new treatment guidelines, and with projections of continued flat lining of U.S. support for global AIDS, GAA estimates that the projected 2010 U.S. budget for global AIDS will provide ART for only 16% percent of those who are medically eligible to receive it.

The President needs to understand that this epidemic is far from over. Every year, almost three million people become infected with HIV, and two million die from AIDS related diseases. The US government is not fulfilling its promises and moral obligations to help prevent those new infections and AIDS deaths.

We are joined by U.S. faith leaders in our call on the Administration to not just reflect, but act on, the reality of AIDS as it considers its 2011 budget plans and its new Global Health Initiative. We look forward to reviewing the President's new 5-year PEPFAR strategy, which has been announced for release this week, to determine if it meets the reality of the AIDS epidemic as we know it.

Resources for this story (click on hyperlinks):

New WHO Treatment Guidelines (11/30/09)

U.S. Faith Leaders' Open World AIDS Day Letter to President Obama

Global Health Advocates' Report Card on President Obama's AIDS Response

UNAIDS 2009 AIDS Epidemic Update

WHO 2009 Report on Universal Access

Fact Sheet on President Obama's Broken Campaign Promises

SOURCE Global AIDS Alliance

SOURCE Global AIDS Alliance
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