Friday is the 35th annual World AIDS Day, a time to remember the estimated 40.4 million lives lost to HIV, the virus that causes AIDS, since the epidemic began in 1981.
Worldwide, more than 39 million people live with HIV, upwards of 1 million Americans among them.
In a statement Friday, President Joe Biden said that America is “within striking distance of eliminating HIV-transmission.” Biden vowed that his focus is ensuring that by 2030, the immunodeficiency virus will no longer be a public health threat worldwide.
Biden said he plans to extend the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS relief, or PEPFAR, for five more years.
The White House says PEPFAR, a bipartisan initiative launched two decades ago under then-President George W. Bush, has saved more than 25 million lives in 50 plus countries and prevented millions of HIV transmissions by providing access to lifesaving treatment and testing, according to the White House.
Among Biden’s goals is to stop the anti-gay stigma surrounding AIDS, which is more prevalent among gay men than the general population. “This year,” Biden said, “my Administration also ended the disgraceful practice of banning gay and bisexual men from donating blood.”
Secretary of State Anthony Blinken said in a press release Friday that PEPFAR is also investing in strategies that partner countries are taking to prevent the spread of the coronavirus, Ebola, cholera, H1N1 influenza, mpox and tuberculosis, with the goal of stifling future pandemics.