Statement by Tommy G. Thompson Secretary of Health and Human Services Regarding World AIDS Day, December 1, 2004

World AIDS Day is an important opportunity to remember those lost to AIDS. Just as importantly, it is an opportunity to raise awareness of the global epidemic and efforts to halt the spread of this terrible disease.

HIV/AIDS continues to be a growing threat to world health. An estimated 39 million people are infected with HIV. About 3 million men and women died of AIDS in 2003 and there were close to 5 million new infections worldwide. In the United States, it is estimated that up to 950,000 Americans are living with HIV, with 40,000 new infections every year.

This Administration has made unprecedented commitments to the fight and we remain unwavering in our efforts to stop this epidemic here and across the globe. This year, President Bush has committed $2.4 billion to his Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief, which expects to support treatment for 2 million HIV-infected people and prevent 7 million new infections. The Emergency Plan provides services to over 100 countries around the world, including 15 focus nations in Africa, the Caribbean and Southeast Asia. In addition, the President has supported reauthorization of the Ryan White CARE Act, which provides support to those most in need, and made another $20 million available to deliver much-needed medication to HIV-positive persons. Finally, the President has requested $17.1 billion to help fight the epidemic in the United States for FY 2005 -- a 27 percent increase since 2001 -- and another $2.8 billion for the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, tuberculosis, and malaria.

This years commemoration has a special focus on the increasingly alarming impact of HIV/AIDS on women and girls. For the first time, women and girls compose almost half of the people with HIV. In sub-Saharan Africa, 57 percent of people living with AIDS are female. In the United States, women accounted for 26 percent of all AIDS cases in 2002, up from 6 percent in 1985. Minority women are disproportionately impacted, comprising 80 percent of American women living with AIDS.

In communities across this country, there are vibrant examples of HHS-supported programs targeted at women that are making a difference. The Childrens Hospital in New Orleans, with support from HHS, provides confidential, culturally competent, family-centered care -- including transportation and child care -- for more than a thousand women living with HIV. The Well Being Institute in Detroit serves HIV-infected women, mostly African American, who have sought care for this disease but have been unable to consistently follow through with their own care. In addition, the University of Miami School of Medicine is implementing the Caring Connections Intervention targeted to sero-positive women and children, helping them take their medicines and get to their doctors appointments.

Over the past year, we have taken important steps to encourage HIV testing. Getting tested for HIV shows your loved ones you care about them and its an important personal contribution to the fight against this devastating disease. That is a theme we are aggressively promoting through new public service advertisements developed in partnership with the Ad Council. The two new television ads target African American men between the ages of 13 and 28 and communicates that knowing their HIV status is the first step in fighting the spread of HIV/AIDS. I call on local television stations to help us combat the scourge of HIV by airing these advertisements and educating their communities.

These efforts and others are reaching across the globe to prevent the spread of HIV, find a vaccine, provide treatment to those affected, encourage HIV testing among at-risk individuals so they can know their status and seek assistance if necessary, and care for orphans and other left behind after AIDS has struck.

Source: HHS