President Obama announces $100M initiative to find HIV cure

President Barack Obama gestures while speaking at a world AIDS Day event, Monday, Dec. 2, 2013, in the South Court Auditorium on the White House complex in Washington. (AP Photo/ Evan Vucci)

At a World AIDS Day ceremony at the White House, President Obama announced a new $100 million initiative at the National Institutes of Health to find a cure for HIV.

After the long holiday weekend, many Americans are commemorating World AIDS Day today (officially, it falls on the calendar December 1).

The President said the new initiative would seek to find a new generation of therapies that could eliminate HIV or put it into remission.

“We can't change the past or undo it's wrenching pain but what we can do and what we have to do is to charter a different future guided by our love for those we couldn't save,” the President said.

The President also said the U.S. passed an ambitious goal he set last year, helping more than six million people around the globe get access to life-saving anti-retroviral drugs.

“We need to keep up the fight in our cities, including Washington, D.C. which in recent years has reduced diagnosed infections by nearly half.”

Just a couple blocks away from the White House, Mayor Vincent Gray held a swearing in ceremony for his Commission on HIV/AIDS.

Gray said, “Prevalence is down from 3% to 2.4% which is good news, but we still have 15,000 people who we know are HIV+ and probably more who have not been tested and don't even know they have the condition.”

A recent D.C. Appleseed report gave the District high marks for its HIV testing, condom distribution and needle exchange programs. But the report suggests more must be done to target young people – afterall, the District's highest percentage of new HIV cases is among 20-somethings.

Health officials say they're developing new campaigns to reach those young people.

Whitman-Walker Health executive director Don Blanchon said, “People are very much aware of HIV in our city. Our real issue is how do we make sure we educate people about practicing safe sex in the moment and what happens if someone is exposed to HIV? How do we get them into treatment right away?”

The D.C. Appleseed report suggests public charter schools are a weak link in the District and that the State Superintendent of Education should provide more oversight – to ensure they incorporate HIV/AIDS education in their classrooms.

The Mayor points out that D.C.'s 60 charter schools are autonomous, but his administration will increase efforts to emphasize the importance of such curriculum.


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