Obama on AIDS: 'Stigma and Silence Don't Just Fuel Ignorance, They Foster Transmission'

By Penny Starr | June 6, 2016 | 12:05pm EDT
Barack Obama makes remarks on World AIDS Day, Thursday, Dec. 1, 2011, at George Washington University in Washington. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

(CNSNews.com) – In a statement reflecting on the 35th anniversary of the Center for Disease Control and Prevention’s "report on what would later be understood as the first documented case of AIDS," President Barack Obama said Sunday that “stigma and silence” “foster transmission” of the virus, which is most often spread through men having sex with men, according to the CDC.

“We've learned that stigma and silence don't just fuel ignorance, they foster transmission and give life to a plague,” Obama said. “We've seen that testing, treatment, education, and acceptance can not only save and extend lives, but fight the discrimination that halted progress for too long. 

“And we've reaffirmed that most American of ideas - that ordinary citizens can speak out, band ourselves together like a breathtaking quilt, and change the course of our communities and our nation for the better,” Obama said, referring to The Names Project, a giant quilt that travels around the nation to memorialize those who have died from the disease.

Obama said “we’ve saved millions of lives” and cites the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief – or PEPFAR – which was launched by President George W. Bush and expanded over the course of his presidency to treat and prevent HIV/AIDS in developing countries, primarily in Africa.

Obama said there is a global commitment to end the disease by 2030.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), men having sex with men (MSM) represent the highest number of new HIV infections in the United States. 

In addition, the CDC stated, “Anal sex is the highest-risk sexual behavior. For the HIV-negative partner, receptive anal sex (bottoming) is riskier than insertive anal sex (topping). … In fact, having anal sex is the riskiest type of sex for getting or spreading HIV.”

“Although MSM represent about 4% of the male population in the United States, in 2010, MSM accounted for 78% of new HIV infections among males and 63% of all new infections. MSM accounted for 54% of all people living with HIV infection in 2011, the most recent year these data are available,” the CDC found.

“In 2010, white MSM continued to account for the largest number of new HIV infections (11,200), by transmission category, followed closely by black MSM (10,600),” according to the CDC.

“The estimated number of new HIV infections was greatest among MSM in the youngest age group. In 2010, the greatest number of new HIV infections (4,800) among MSM occurred in young black/African American MSM aged 13–24. Young black MSM accounted for 45% of new HIV infections among black MSM and 55% of new HIV infections among young MSM overall,” the CDC stated.

“Since the epidemic began, an estimated 311,087 MSM with an AIDS diagnosis have died, including an estimated 5,380 in 2012,” it added.

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