President Obama issued a statement Sunday timed to coincide with the marking of 35 years since the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued its first report on what came to be known as AIDS. He reflected on the battle for understanding, funding and combatting HIV/AIDS, and acknowledged “there is more work to do.”
“We’ve learned that stigma and silence don’t just fuel ignorance, they foster transmission and give life to a plague. We’ve seen that testing, treatment, education, and acceptance can not only save and extend lives, but fight the discrimination that halted progress for too long. And we’ve reaffirmed that most American of ideas – that ordinary citizens can speak out, band ourselves together like a breathtaking quilt, and change the course of our communities and our nation for the better.”
His focus was overwhelmingly optimistic and touted the strides made thus far, stating “the past 35 years tell a story that bends from uncertainty, fear, and loss toward resilience, innovation, and hope.”
“Over these 35 years, American ingenuity and leadership has shaped the world’s response to this crisis. From the Ryan White HIV/AIDS Program to the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR), we’ve saved millions of lives at home and around the world. My administration implemented our nation’s first comprehensive National HIV/AIDS Strategy, and we’ve updated it through 2020.”
The epidemic is far from over, however. A recent report estimated as many as 4 in 10 gay men have HIV/AIDS in some Southern cities.
Consistent with the administration’s inclusive policies, Obama noted that AIDS and HIV impact more than just the gay community: “While there is more work to do – the economically disadvantaged; gay and bisexual men, especially those who are young and Black; women of color; and transgender women all continue to face huge disparities – I’m confident that if we build upon the steps we’ve taken, we can finish the job.”
“We’ve invested in research and evidence-based practices that have given us revolutionary tools like treatment as prevention and pre-exposure prophylaxis. We’ve made critical investments to help eliminate waiting lists for the AIDS Drug Assistance Program. We’ve continued efforts to support the promise of a vaccine. And the Affordable Care Act has resulted in millions of individuals gaining affordable, high-quality health coverage – all without denial for pre-existing conditions like HIV.”
Read the full statement by President Obama here.