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U.S. pledges additional $150 million in support of AIDS-free generation

Published: Wednesday, July 25 2012 4:47 p.m. MDT

At the ongoing International AIDS Conference, the Obama administration and top HIV researchers further reiterated the goal of an AIDS-free generation in the midst of new research and technology and pledged additional money to help eradicate the virus globally.

"Science now has the tools to slash the spread of HIV even without a vaccine — and the U.S. is donating an extra $150 million to help poor countries put them in place, the Obama administration told the world's largest AIDS conference Monday," according to an Associated Press article on MSNBC.

Some 34.2 million people worldwide are living with HIV, and 2.5 million were infected last year, according to the AP, but Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said it is possible to eliminate the virus worldwide.

"I am here today to make it absolutely clear the U.S. is committed and will remain committed to achieving an AIDS-free generation," Clinton said at the conference.

Recent research has also sparked new conversation about how best to combat AIDS and how potentially devastating untreated effects of the virus can be.

"The nonprofit International Antiviral Society-USA cited new evidence that untreated infection with the human immunodeficiency virus that causes AIDS can also lead to a range of other conditions, including cardiovascular disease and kidney disease," Reuters reports. "In addition, data have shown that suppressing HIV reduces the risk of an infected person passing the virus to another person."

"We are no longer only focused on traditional AIDS-defining infections. We know that HIV is doing damage to the body all the time when it is not controlled," said Dr. Melanie Thompson, principal investigator of the AIDS Research Consortium of Atlanta and a member of the Antiviral Society panel, in the Reuters article.

The U.S. has been investing in AIDS prevention continuously for many years, but an AIDS-free generation will be dependent on reaching and effectively targeting high-risk populations in all areas of the world, according to the AP.

"First, Clinton said it's possible to virtually eliminate the transmission of HIV from infected pregnant women to their babies by 2015 by getting the mothers onto anti-AIDS drugs," the AP reported. "HIV-infected births are rare in the United States and are dropping steadily worldwide, although some 330,000 children became infected last year. Clinton said the U.S. has invested more than $1 billion toward that goal in recent years and is providing an extra $80 million to help poor countries finish the job."

A march through Washington by more than 1,000 people was a reminder that many feel there is still much work to be done, despite substantial progress in the last few years.

"Organizers said the aim of the 'Keep the Promise' march was to remind world leaders and policymakers that AIDS remains a threat to global health," according to a New York Times article. "Marchers used red umbrellas to create a human red ribbon in advance of the march. Some carried balloons in the shape of globes as they marched, and others carried signs that read 'Test & Treat Now' and 'Yes We Can Control AIDS.' The marchers stretched for more than a block, with bands and cheerleaders among the group."

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