Last week Secretary of State Hillary Clinton held a press conference at the National Institutes of Health to announce an update to the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PERFAR). Her announcement included calls to create an “AIDS-Free Generation” by reducing transmission rates overall and creating new and better ways to treat those already infected.
Reducing mother-to-child transmission rates was the only goal to be given a completion date, 2015. The primary goal of this initiative is to reduce mother to child transmission rates to 0. This can be done by ensuring pregnant and nursing women get proper treatment with retroviral medication. According to her speech, this method prevented over 114,000 mother-to-child transmissions. At present, 1 in 7 new transmissions is mother to child, so by ensuring pregnant and nursing people get treatment this number can be reduced.
The initiative also includes provisions to limit transmission rates by encouraging voluntary male circumcision. Studies show that a man who has been circumcised is more than 60% less likely to pass HIV to a female partner. Male circumcision can sometimes be a hot button topic, but encouraging a man who is HIV positive to get circumcised is clearly in the best interest of ensuring he doesn’t infect future partners. The third part of the initiative is one we have already mentioned here; the fact that treating an already infected person reduces the risk of transmission by 96%. To ensure these goals get met the White House is partnering with various health agencies and governments throughout the world to implement strategies to best fit the needs of the communities in those countries. Secretary Clinton also announced $60 million in funding for these initiatives.
According to an article at The Huffington Post, these methods can and will be effective at driving down transmission rates; especially when combined with traditional methods of decreasing transmission such as condom use and proactive testing:
“Mathematical models show that scaling up combination prevention to realistic levels using these three core interventions in high-prevalence countries would drive down the global rate of new infection by at least 40 to 60 percent. That is on top of the 25 percent drop we have already seen in the past decade. Moreover, by implementing this core package along with other effective interventions, such as condoms, HIV testing and counseling, legal reform, programs to reduce stigma and discrimination, and the behavioral supports needed for all successful efforts, we can maximize the total impact.”
They are also reaching out to raise awareness through pop culture. During her speech, Secretary Clinton announced the recruitment of daytime talk show host Ellen DeGeneres as the Special Envoy for Global AIDS Awareness. DeGeneres has a wildly popular TV show along with a massive social media following with 5.8 million Facebook fans and 8 million Twitter followers. She is an advocate for raising awareness.
With World AIDS Day coming up on December 1st many are expecting more news from the White House in regards to current and future AIDS related initiatives.