Obama Continues Path to AIDS-Free Generation in State of Union speech

Ten years ago, President Bush used the State of the Union to unveil the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR). The program is a lasting legacy of the administration that has won praise from both sides of the aisle.

An initiative of this scale and ambition — the largest effort to fight a single disease in history — was utterly unexpected. Bush’s strongest political supporters had not demanded it. His strongest critics, at least for a time, remained suspicious. The President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) existed entirely because of a willing leader, a creative policy team, a smattering of activists and a vast, bleeding need, wrote Michael Gerson in remembering the occasion.

Because of the success of PEPFAR, there have been expectations in development circles that President Obama may too seek to leave his mark in a similar manner. The ten year anniversary, to some, may have been the right moment to make a surprise announcement. What happened was a speech that leaned heavily on rebuilding the American economy, improving education, immigration reform, national security and passing  a gun bill.

SOTU

The President did manage to squeeze in a few lines about international development. In them, he gave quick mention to existing programs and put his support to accomplishing an AIDS-free generation.

We also know that progress in the most impoverished parts of our world enriches us all. In many places, people live on little more than a dollar a day. So the United States will join with our allies to eradicate such extreme poverty in the next two decades: by connecting more people to the global economy and empowering women; by giving our young and brightest minds new opportunities to serve and helping communities to feed, power, and educate themselves; by saving the world’s children from preventable deaths; and by realizing the promise of an AIDS-free generation.

On Twitter, people celebrated the President’s call to action to end AIDS. It is a declaration that supports the words of President Bush ten years earlier when he said, “AIDS can be prevented. Anti-retroviral drugs can extend life for many years. And the cost of those drugs has dropped from $12,000 a year to under $300 a year, which places a tremendous possibility within our grasp.”

In fact, the Obama administration is already working towards an AIDS-free generation. Former Secretary of State Clinton marked World AIDS Day released a blueprint to end AIDS. “An AIDS-free generation is not just a rallying cry – it is a goal that is within our reach,” said Clinton in the report.

The paragraph also called for the end of extreme poverty in the next two decades. Though no direction was provided as to how that would happen. Short mention was given to women’s empowerment and averting child deaths. USAID gathered partners last summer as a part of a call to action to end all preventable deaths in children under five years old. Nearly 7 million children die each year before the age of five. Many of the deaths occur in developing countries and can be prevented.

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About Author

Tom Murphy

Tom Murphy is a Maine-based reporter for Humanosphere. Before joining Humanosphere, Tom found and edited the aid blog A View From the Cave. His work has appeared in Foreign Policy, the Huffington Post, the Guardian, GlobalPost and Christian Science Monitor. He tweets at @viewfromthecave. Contact him at tmurphy[at]humanosphere.org.