President Joe Biden released a statement Saturday, June 5 recognizing the 40th year of the HIV/AIDS epidemic, emphasizing the need for continued progress toward eradicating the virus, and announcing $670 million toward that commitment.
“Forty years ago today, five young men in Los Angeles were confirmed as the first known patients stricken with an illness that the world would later come to know as AIDS,” Biden said. “In the decades since, more than 700,000 Americans and 32.7 million people worldwide have been lost to AIDS-related illnesses – a heartbreaking human toll that has disproportionately devastated LGBTQ+ communities, communities of color, and underserved and marginalized people around the world.”
The president said on this anniversary the country remembers the lives that were cut short due the epidemic and their unacknowledged pain. It was also a time, Biden said, to celebrate “the resilience and dignity” of those living with HIV — 38 million globally, including 1.2 million Americans.
Biden thanked the activists, researchers, and medical experts who have pushed for progress on HIV treatment, research, prevention, and care. The president also acknowledged the lack of response for years by the government and the stigma those living with HIV still face.
He cited the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief, noting the U.S. has supported HIV programs around the world by investing more than $85 billion since 2002, including, he said, $250 million toward the effects of COVID-19 on HIV.
Biden said the funds have gone to save more than 20 million people around the world.
“To help accelerate and strengthen our efforts to end the HIV epidemic in the United States, I have requested $670 million from Congress, an increase of $267 million over previous levels, to aggressively reduce new HIV cases by increasing access to treatment, expanding the use of preexposure prophylaxis (PrEP), and ensuring equitable access to services free from stigma and discrimination,” he announced.
The move by Biden to recognize June 5 stands in contrast to former President Donald Trump’s actions around HIV/AIDS. In 2017, Trump fired what remained of the Presidential Advisory Council on HIV/AIDS after some had quit earlier due to the administration’s health policies.
In addition to the requested funding, the White House announced the new director of the White House Office of National AIDS Policy, Harold Phillips.
Under Phillips’s leadership, the Biden administration will move toward the president’s commitment of ending the HIV/AIDS epidemic through renewed national programs and supporting global initiatives, according to the White House.
Phillips previously worked at the Office of HIV/AIDS and Infectious Disease Policy and the Department of Health and Human Services as Senior HIV Advisor and Chief Operating Officer of the Ending the HIV Epidemic initiative. He also served as Director of the Office of HIV/AIDS Training and Capacity Development at the Health Resources and Service Administration’s HIV/AIDS Bureau.
The new director will be instrumental in carrying out the plans Biden has to combat the HIV epidemic.
“In honor of all those we have lost and all those living with the virus – and the selfless caregivers, advocates, and loved ones who have helped carry the burden of this crisis – we must rededicate ourselves to reducing HIV infections and AIDS-related deaths,” Biden said. “Despite the progress we’ve made, our work is not yet finished.”