December 1, 2000
In the United States, approximately 800,000-900,000 people are living with HIV/AIDS; more than 438,000 deaths among people with AIDS had been reported to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) as of June 2000. The rate of new HIV infections in this country has reached an unacceptable plateau of 40,000 per year, with minority communities disproportionately affected. CDC estimates that nearly three-quarters of new HIV infections in the United States occur among African-Americans and Hispanics.
The enormity of the AIDS pandemic requires a vigorous response by all sectors of society, in this country and abroad. Political resolve at the highest levels of government is crucial, as are community efforts to reduce the stigma associated with HIV disease. Collaborations between government agencies, public health organizations, advocacy groups, private industry, and philanthropies are essential to slowing the course of the pandemic. The resources and expertise of these partners are critical to our shared goals of improving care for HIV-infected people, expanding and improving efforts in AIDS prevention and, ultimately, developing a safe and effective HIV vaccine.
Nearly twenty years of research and real-world experience have shown that methods to prevent HIV transmission -- including education, behavior modification and the social marketing and provision of condoms -- can be enormously effective. Such prevention efforts must be expanded and refined so they are most appropriate to the populations that need them most. As stressed by the theme of this year's World AIDS Campaign -- "Men Make a Difference" -- prevention efforts must target men as well as women. It is critical that we provide men and adolescent boys with the knowledge and tools to protect themselves and their partners from HIV, and encourage them to help care for family members, children, and others in their communities affected by the disease.
Last year saw an unprecedented recognition of AIDS and other global health issues by world leaders and organizations. For example, in 2000 the United Nations Security Council for the first time devoted an entire session to health issue -- AIDS in Africa -- recognizing the enormous threat that the disease poses to the security not only of that continent but the world. The White House, Congress, foreign governments, international organizations, industry and major philanthropies all have made major commitments to fighting AIDS and other diseases of global importance, including malaria and tuberculosis. The efforts of each of these partners must be sustained and accelerated.
At the National Institutes of Health (NIH), AIDS research funding has nearly doubled since 1992, to an estimated $2.0 billion for fiscal year 2000. To address the increasing urgency of the global AIDS pandemic, the NIH Office of AIDS Research (OAR) has established the Global AIDS Research Initiative and today released the first Strategic Plan for International AIDS Research. The new NIH initiative will:
I am pleased to serve, along with Acting OAR Director Jack Whitescarver, Ph.D., as co-chair of a working group to assure that the goals of this initiative are met.
We are at a pivotal point in the pandemic. We know that HIV prevention tools, when appropriately applied, can be enormously effective. Biomedical research has provided valuable therapies and the tools to develop better ones, as well as a still-elusive AIDS vaccine. Both research and prevention efforts must be accelerated. With a sustained commitment by all sectors of society, I remain optimistic that we can slow the inexorable advance of HIV and AIDS, and significantly reduce the human and economic burden of this modern-day plague.