Obama: US aims to provide HIV drugs for extra 2 million by end of 2013

Keith Alcorn
Published: 01 December 2011

The United States will aim to provide antiretroviral treatment for 6 million people around the world by 2013, President Barack Obama announced today, increasing the original US target by 2 million.

The United States will also aim to provide antiretroviral drugs to prevent mother to child HIV transmission to 1.5 million women over the next two years, the President said. The US government also aims to support 4.7 million male circumcisions in eastern and southern Africa, and will fund the distribution of at least 1 billion male condoms.

The US government’s decision to increase its investment in antiretroviral treatment follows the results of the HPTN 052 trial, which showed that HIV treatment reduces the risk of transmission to a regular partner by around 96%.

Last month US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said that the United States was now committed to a policy of creating an AIDS-free generation, and set the use of antiretroviral drugs at the heart of this strategy.

The new treatment target effectively doubles the pace of treatment scale-up through the US government’s President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR), and the commitment marks a significant turnaround from the Obama administration’s lukewarm attitude towards PEPFAR.

However, the Obama administration says that the expansion of treatment numbers will be achieved without requesting extra funds from Congress.

Instead, the scale-up in specific activities will be achieved through continuing cuts in drug prices and a reorganisation of resources to concentrate on high priority activities.

UNAIDS welcomed the renewed US commitment but highlighted the continuing shortfall in donor commitments to the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria.

The Global Fund announced last week that it has cancelled Round 11 of grant-making to national programmes, scheduled to support new applications from 2012 to 2014, due to lack of payments from donors who had promised money and the failure to make new pledges by other donors.

The Fund will now give money only to programmes already funded in order to allow them to continue providing treatment to people already enrolled.

While welcoming the new US commitment, activists called for swift action to deal with the cash crisis at the Global Fund.

 “We call on the U.S. and all donor countries to hold an emergency donor conference to ensure the Global Fund is open for new business—the business of ending AIDS—this year,” said Asia Russell, Director of International Policy for Health GAP.