Days before World Aids Day, the Trump administration announced it would authorize a bill that would extend a government HIV/AIDS program projected to help millions in the U.S. and Africa.
Vice President Mike Pence said on Thursday, Nov. 29 at the White House that “it is a day to remember those who have lost their lives to AIDS. But it’s also a day to celebrate the remarkable progress that we have made in combating this disease.”
Over the past 37 years, HIV/AIDS has infected more than 77 million people worldwide and claimed 35 million lives, devastating countless families and communities, according to the White House.
“In response to this health crisis, the American people did as we always do: We mobilized the resources of the nation to fight this epidemic, not just in our own nation, in our communities, but ultimately in every corner of the world,” Pence said. “America has been on a long journey fighting this disease since it first emerged. And much of the progress that we’ve made here at home actually began with one young man’s story. A boy from my home state of Indiana named Ryan White.”
Ryan White became the poster child for HIV/AIDS when he was diagnosed with AIDS following a blood transfusion in December 1984. He died in 1990.
“Ryan’s story gained national and international attention,” Pence said. “His courage and example though helped educate — educate the American people about the realities of HIV/AIDS and it galvanized the United States Congress to act.”
Pence said the number of new HIV infections every year in the United States has fallen by more than two-thirds — from 130,000 in 1985, to 50,000 in the year 2010.
The President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief, or PEPFAR, was extended for five years by the Senate and advanced to the White House for Trump’s signature. The House passed a similar measure in November, according to The Associated Press.
In 2003, President George W. Bush signed PEPFAR into law. Since then, the United States has devoted more than $80 billion to preventing HIV infections and delivering lifesaving treatments to millions.
Pence also announced that $100 million will go to religious groups working to combat the spread of HIV/AIDS. He said the investment is the largest by any nation in response to a single disease in human history.
“President Trump believes this reauthorization is a critical component of our administration’s commitment to combat AIDS,” he said. “And it will build on the renewed energy and focus that the President has brought, and our entire administration have brought to this critical issue.”