As the world struggles through the coronavirus pandemic, President Biden has promised to remain “steadfast” on efforts to end the HIV/AIDS epidemic which, to date, has killed more than 36 million people globally over a 40-year period. The president made the declaration on Tuesday, Nov. 30, a day in advance of World AIDS Day which occurs every Dec. 1, indicating that the disease continues to be a deadly menace.
More than 700,000 Americans have perished from the disease since 1988, seven years after it was first detected, and to further combat it the Biden administration has included $670 million in the budget request, boosting the previous request by $267 million.
“On World AIDS Day,” Biden said, “we rededicate ourselves to building on the progress of the last four decades; upholding and advancing human rights; supporting research, science, and data-driven solutions; expanding access to housing, education, and economic empowerment; and fighting stigma and discrimination.”
Moreover, he said, “no one living with HIV should suffer the undeserved guilt and prejudice that too many continue to experience. We must innovate and explore new ways to help address HIV/AIDS in communities here at home and around the world.”
In 1981, the Center for Disease Control reported that five young gay men in Los Angeles were diagnosed with lung infections and this began the fight against what was later an infection related to Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (AIDS).
Along with his announcement, Biden said that the aim was to end the epidemic by 2030, a goal established by the Joint United Nations Program on HIV/AIDS, or UNAIDS, in 2015.
On the eve of World AIDS Day, people began wearing red ribbons symbolizing the awareness of the disease and support for those living with it. Over the years research and treatment of the disease has made some breakthroughs but there is still no cure for it.
While Biden’s commitment is applauded, many supporters, such as journalist Mark King, who has been an unwavering advocate in the fight against the disease, said it was doubtful that the president would be able to find the needed funds. Despite the president’s sincerity, “People living with HIV have had the rug pulled out from under us so many times, [so] we tend to be a little jaded when it comes to a real commitment to fight this epidemic or a breakthrough treatment being around the next corner,” he told the Daily News.
King, 60, is a longtime HIV survivor and said the HIV/AIDs community has had to deal with disappointments “many times over the decades.”