WASHINGTON (AP) -- President Barack Obama set an ambitious goal Thursday for significantly increasing access to life-saving AIDS drugs for people in the U.S. and around the world, as he announced a renewed American commitment to ending a pandemic that has killed 30 million people.
"We can beat this disease," Obama declared, as he announced the new initiatives during a World AIDS Day event in Washington. Former Presidents George W. Bush and Bill Clinton also participated via satellite.
Obama pledged U.S. support to help an additional 2 million people in countries hardest hit by the virus get access to antiretroviral drugs by the end of 2013, and announced plans to boost spending on HIV treatment in the U.S. by $50 million.
"The rate of new infections may be going down elsewhere, but it's not going down here in America," he said. "There are communities in this country being devastated still by this disease. When new infections among young, black, gay men increase by nearly 50 percent in three years, we need to do more to show them that their lives matter."
As part of Obama's new initiatives, the U.S. will also aim to get antiretroviral drugs to 1.5 million HIV-positive pregnant women to prevent them from passing the virus to their children; distribute more than 1 billion condoms in the developing world in the next two years; and fund 4.7 million voluntary medical male circumcisions in eastern and southern Africa over the next two years. Research shows circumcisions reduce the risk of female-to-male HIV transmission by more than 60 percent.