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Obama unveils new HIV/AIDS initiatives; organizations laud efforts

GLENN TOWNES Special to the AmNews | 12/9/2011, 1:20 p.m.

Following through on a campaign promise to create an "AIDS-free generation," President Barack Obama unveiled several additional commitments to ending the global epidemic that has claimed millions of lives. The announcement, made last Thursday in Washington, D.C., was one of several events at the White House to celebrate World AIDS Day 2011.

Acknowledging that "the fight is not over, not by a long shot," Obama said that everyone, particularly state governments, drug companies and philanthropic foundations, must to do their part to help Americans get access to life-saving treatments. He also allocated additional funds to fight the disease on an international level, as well as more than $50 million for domestic treatment plans. The president appointed Nancy Mahon, executive director of the MAC AIDS Fund, as the chairperson of the Presidential Advisory Council on HIV/AIDS. "When new infections among young Black gay men increase by nearly 50 percent in three years, we need to do more to show them that their lives matter," Obama said.

Phill Wilson, president of the Black AIDS Institute (BAI), the nation's only HIV/AIDS think tank devoted exclusively to African-Americans, said the president's strategy is further proof that HIV/AIDS is preventable, diagnosable and treatable. Wilson has been living with the virus for more than 20 years. "The question is no longer, can we end AIDS? The question is, will we?" Wilson said. "Do we have the moral willpower and the political leadership? We can do more than just imagine the end of the epidemic; we can make it happen!"

To find out more about the Black AIDS Institute, visit www.blackaids.org.