(CNSNews.com) - In a speech to commemorate World AIDS Day this Saturday, Vice President Mike Pence said Thursday that the United States is “closer than ever before to ending the AIDS crisis in our time.”
The faith-based community also played a special role in combating the AIDS crisis.
“Because of your remarkable work … we are closer today than ever before to ending the AIDS crisis in our time. The credit for this achievement is widely shared, but faith-based organizations and faith communities like those represented here have played a pre-imminent role,” Pence said.
“The leaders in this room have inspired countless others to put hands and feet on their faith and bring hope and healing to literally millions of people around the world suffering with HIV-AIDS,” the vice president added.
He said the U.S. is “controlling the HIV/AIDS pandemic without a vaccine and without a cure,” which he called “a remarkable testament” to the compassion of faith-based groups and other organizations dedicated to fighting HIV/AIDS.
“And every day, one community, one country at a time, we’re achieving what once seemed impossible: We are controlling the HIV/AIDS pandemic without a vaccine and without a cure. It is a remarkable testament to your compassion in your lives,” the vice president said.
Pence also explained how far the country has come in the fight against HIV/AIDS.
“It’s amazing to think of the progress that we’ve made. Over the past 37 years, HIV/AIDS has infected more than 77 million people worldwide and claimed no less than 35 million lives, devastating countless families and communities around the world,” he said.
Since the early days of the HIV/AIDS crisis, “the number of new HIV infections every year in the United States, I’m pleased to report, has fallen by more than two-thirds — from 130,000 in 1985, to 50,000 in the year 2010,” the vice president said.
“We’ve also put feet on our commitment not just to confront HIV/AIDS here in the United States of America but to fight HIV/AIDS across the wider world. By the start of the 21st century, the United States was spending more than $500 million every year to combat this disease — more than any other nation, but we soon realized it was not nearly enough,” he said.
“Antiretroviral treatments were still too expensive and hard to access. HIV was a death sentence for too many around the world. And it was projected that 100 million people would contract the virus by the end of the first decade of this century, but in 2003 — 15 years ago this year — under the leadership of President George W. Bush, and during my and Congressman Smith’s tenure in the Congress of the United States, the American people acted to confront the worldwide HIV/AIDS epidemic with American resources and American values,” Pence said.
President Bush’s call to action resulted in one of the most extraordinary bipartisan achievements of compassion in our time: The President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief, otherwise known as PEPFAR,” he said.
Since PEPFAR was signed into law, the U.S. “has devoted more than $80 billion to prevent HIV infections and deliver lifesaving treatments to millions.” It is considered “the largest investments by any nation to respond to a single disease in human history,” Pence said.
“And PEPFAR has not only been the largest investment. It has been inarguably one of the most successful investment in healthcare and humanitarian aid in American history,” he added.
Congress has voted to reauthorize PEPFAR, Pence said, and President Donald Trump is expected to sign it into law. Last year, the Trump administration “published the first-ever ‘Strategy for Accelerating HIV/AIDS Epidemic Control,’ which lays out President Trump’s vision and plan to end the AIDS epidemic as we know it.”
The Trump administration is “reaching new milestones” in the fight against HIV/AIDS. First lady Melania Trump traveled to Africa earlier this year and saw firsthand the work that PEPFAR has done overseas.
Through PEPFAR, there has been a nearly 3,000 percent increase in the number of people receiving antiretroviral treatment.
“As of September 2018, PEPFAR today is supporting more than 14.6 million people with lifesaving [anti] retroviral treatment, compared to 50,000 people receiving such treatments in Africa before 2003. That represents an increase of nearly 3,000 percent in just 15 years that have access to these lifesaving drugs,” the vice president said.
“And thanks to PEPFAR, more than 2.4 million babies of HIV-positive mothers have been born HIV-free. More than 6.8 million orphans, vulnerable children, and their caregivers are surviving and thriving. And over 270,000 healthcare workers have been trained to help save lives in the most vulnerable communities,” he said.
“Today, as many as 13 high-burden nations are on track to control their HIV epidemic by 2020. Eleven of the 53 nations that PEPFAR supports are funding a majority of the HIV response within their borders. And I want to assure you, our administration will continue to empower ever more countries to mobilize domestic resources to share more of this burden. We will work with our partners together to confront HIV/AIDS around the world,” Pence said.