Forty years ago today, five young men from Los Angeles were confirmed as the first known patients with a disease that the world would later know as AIDS. In the decades that followed, more than 700,000 Americans and 32.7 million people worldwide died from AIDS-related illnesses – a heartbreaking human toll that disproportionately devastated LGBTQ + communities, communities of color and underserved and marginalized people around the world.
As we mark the 40th year of the HIV / AIDS epidemic, we remember the lives cut short by this terrible disease – including so many whose pain has been overlooked for too long. We also celebrate the resilience and dignity of the more than 38 million people around the world, including approximately 1.2 million Americans, living with HIV.
Thanks to the tireless dedication of activists, scientific researchers and healthcare professionals, we have made tremendous strides in advancing HIV research, prevention, treatment and care. And after years of neglect, discrimination, incitement to fear, and limited action by government officials and the public, America has emerged as a leading force in the fight to end the HIV crisis. As part of the Presidential Emergency Plan to Fight AIDS – and as the largest donor to the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria – the United States has invested more than $ 85 billion since 2002 to support HIV programs around the world, including $ 250 million provided for my US bailout to deal with the impacts of COVID-19 on our progress in the fight against HIV. In total, these efforts are estimated to have saved more than 20 million lives worldwide. To help accelerate and strengthen our efforts to end the HIV epidemic in the United States, I have asked Congress for $ 670 million, an increase of $ 267 million from previous levels, to reduce by aggressively new HIV cases by increasing access to treatment, pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) and ensuring equitable access to services free from stigma and discrimination.
Despite the progress we have made, our work is not yet finished. In honor of all those we have lost and all of those living with the virus – and the selfless caregivers, advocates and loved ones who have helped carry the burden of this crisis – we must re-dedicate ourselves to reducing HIV infections and AIDS-related deaths. We must continue to empower researchers, scientists and healthcare providers to ensure equitable access to prevention, care and treatment in every community, especially for communities of color and the LGBTQ + community. And we must provide moral leadership to eradicate the stigma and discrimination still faced by people living with HIV, re-dedicating ourselves to continuing the vital work of ending this epidemic once and for all.