Statement by HHS Secretary Tommy G. Thompson, Regarding World AIDS Day
As we commemorate World AIDS Day tomorrow, we face the reality that we have entered the third decade of fighting HIV/AIDS, and the news is troubling. An estimated 40 million people are living with HIV/AIDS. In 2001, approximately 8,000 people worldwide died of HIV/AIDS every day. Worldwide in the same year, young people under the age of 25 represented more than half of all new HIV infections, and every minute, more than five young people were infected with HIV. In the past 20 years, AIDS has claimed the lives of nearly 25 million people.
These numbers are truly staggering. More importantly, these numbers are not just statistics but represent real people. They are people we have known, people we have loved, people who have contributed greatly to our communities. Their memory drives us and their legacy inspires us to end the tragedy of this disease.
The danger of HIV and AIDS is not gone, and the worst mistake we can make is to let our guard down. For AIDS is still a wretched killer and too many lives are still at stake.
However, there are signs of hope. We know that education can stop the spread of HIV/AIDS. We know that when people are tested and receive appropriate treatment, their long-term health and well-being is enhanced. We have seen dramatic breakthroughs in AIDS research in recent years, such as new drug therapies that are making it possible for many to enjoy long and productive lives. In recognition of World AIDS Day, the National Institutes of Health today will launch a new Web site (http://worldaidsday.nih.gov) that will provide the general public and medical and public health professionals comprehensive information on HIV/AIDS.
I am also pleased that Ms. Patricia Funderburk Ware recently assumed the position of Executive Director of the Presidential Advisory Council on HIV/AIDS. The council provides the President, myself, and the rest of HHS and other federal agencies recommendations regarding programs and policies intended to promote the highest quality of research, prevention, and care and treatment. Ms. Ware's diverse experience and commitment to helping individuals revitalize their lives and communities will help further the council's initiatives.
Of course, AIDS is not simply an American issue. With the leadership of President Bush, we have launched the multilateral Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis, and Malaria, and the President has pledged $200 million to the global fund next year. At the same time, we will strengthen our bilateral commitment to international research, prevention, care and treatment of HIV/AIDS.
We must remain on the offensive in the battle against HIV/AIDS. We must increase our commitment to funding biomedical and behavioral research. We must increase our commitment to decreasing risk behaviors in order to prevent people from becoming infected with HIV. And we must increase our commitment to providing care and treatment for people living with HIV/AIDS.
We have much work yet to do. My pledge to you is that HHS and this administration will not give up the fight.