Since its identification in the early 1980s, HIV/AIDS has developed into one of the major health crises facing the world today. Despite improved access to treatment and care in many regions of the world, the AIDS pandemic continues to claim millions of lives each year, with equally devastating social and economic consequences for affected communities. Though no region has been spared, sub-Saharan Africa remains by far the worst affected region, with more than 60 percent of all people living with HIV/AIDS and more than 70 percent of all AIDS-related deaths.
The United States has taken the lead in combating HIV/AIDS, malaria, and other health challenges, and that commitment remains strong. President Barack Obama recently unveiled his plans for U.S. government spending in the coming year, and despite calls from many quarters to rein in the expenditures involved in America's government operations, his 2012 budget calls for increased funding to save lives and strengthen health systems in developing countries. The President is requesting $9.8 billion for the nation's Global Health Initiative next year, an increase of 11 percent above the 2010 budget year. The Global Health Initiative focuses on improving health and achieving sustainable, effective, efficient programs that deliver essential health care to more than 80 developing countries.
Anti-retroviral drugs are now being more widely distributed in the nations of Africa. Sustainable progress is being made there against HIV, malaria, and other health challenges, and now is not the time to curtail support for the effort. Indeed, increased impact has been made possible by gains in efficiency that reduced the costs of treating AIDS. Our nation's Global Health Initiative is proving that it is possible to both save money and save lives.