The 18th International AIDS Conference convened in Vienna, Austria in late July, with 20,000 delegates meeting to discuss new ways to combat this scourge. Medical breakthroughs were discussed, such as a promising microbicide gel, which offers women a means to protect themselves even without the cooperation of their male partners. Women who used this gel in a trial reduced their risk of infection by up to 40 percent.
The delegates also found that the criminalization of drug abuse and persecution of homosexuals in many parts of the world, as well as the stigmatization of HIV/AIDS patients in general, are seriously undermining medical developments in the treatment and prevention of HIV/AIDS. These laws exclude high-risk groups from services and fuel further spread of the disease.
The discussion also focused on the global commitment to the HIV/AIDS response. The United States is the largest contributor to global AIDS programs through the President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief, or PEPFAR. And through the Global Health Initiative, which builds on PEPFAR, the United States is investing 63 billion $ over 6 years to help partner countries improve the health of their people through strengthened health systems.
U.S. President Barack Obama stated in a video message for the International AIDS Conference that he has "asked for increases to PEPFAR in both his budgets; 2011 being the largest PEPFAR budget to date. We’ve also embedded it in a comprehensive Global Health Initiative to help other countries improve health care, save lives and increase life expectancy."
"The Global Health Initiative has set clear goals to get this done. We’re going to double the number of babies born HIV-free, and work to prevent more than 12 million new infections. We’ll provide direct support to more than 4 million people on treatment. And we’ll help more than 12 million people – including 5 million children and orphans – get the care they need."
"Ending this pandemic won’t be easy, and it won’t happen overnight," said President Obama. "But thanks to you, we’ve come a long way – and the United States is committed to continuing that progress."