A Generation’s Mission: Put an End to AIDS
Every generation is known for something. As a child of the 80’s, I am a part of “Generation Y,” I am a “millennial” – a member of the “net-generation”; for better or for worse, we will be forever marked by our increased use of digital technology. However, I am determined to contribute to a greater legacy for my generation. We will not only be defined as those who grew up on the internet with smart phones practically attached to our ears, I am determined to be a part of the generation that will be remembered for achieving the goal of no child born with HIV by 2015.
So what exactly does this mean? A thousand babies are born with HIV every day. Needlessly. It’s preventable. For the first time since the discovery of the disease, we have a chance to reduce that number to zero. Thirty years ago, most children born with HIV never reached adulthood – all tragically passed away well before their time. Today, as we celebrate our 27th World AIDS Day, that’s not the case. Relatively inexpensive anti-retroviral drugs (ARVs) exist that can block mother to child transmission of the virus – and with a sustained commitment to the programs that provide these ARVs, we can prevent all mother to child transmission by 2015. It is within our reach to help ensure, before the end of this decade, that an entire generation of children is healthy enough to get an education, serve their communities and contribute to the future prosperity of their nations.
Since the 1980s, breakthroughs in modern science have produced antiretroviral treatments that have given millions infected with the disease a second chance at life. Commitments from nations leading the global health fight, like the United States, have brought these cutting-edge treatments to communities that otherwise could not afford them. We know now that with the right leadership and continued support for proven, cost-effective programs like the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Malaria and Tuberculosis and President Bush’s PEPFAR, our generation can put a stop to AIDS.
As we look beyond World AIDS Day to the future of this fight, we recognize there will be enormous challenges ahead. I am heartened that the United States has outlined a vision for taking this battle to a new level, made possible by game-changing scientific advances. Now, we need to see this vision translated into a bold, new global plan of action. If we continue to push for strong commitments from our leaders in Washington, we will see the beginning of the end of AIDS by 2015. It’s an ambitious but realizable goal that this generation can accomplish, if we continue to support targeted investments in global health that make a huge difference in the lives of those suffering in extreme poverty.
The cost of continued American leadership in the fight against preventable diseases like HIV is relatively low. In fact, these life-saving programs account for less than 1% of our federal budget. However, the cost of turning our back would be high — as measured in needless suffering, lost markets for American goods and greater instability in the world. When we help other nations in their time of need, we build friendships and establish allies that will stand with us to combat destructive elements in the world, and we reinforce the United States’ legacy as a leader in the fight to save lives.
I understand that we face tough choices as we reevaluate our fiscal priorities and tackle our debt. But as we decide what to cut, we cannot afford to put the programs that cost little but save millions of lives on the chopping block. As Granite Staters and people around the world take a moment to commemorate World AIDS Day and the extraordinary progress we’ve made in the fight against one of the world’s top killers, I hope you will go to ONE.org and add your voice to the more than 10,000 ONE members in New Hampshire already speaking out to let our leaders know we must finish what we started. As we prepare to close out 2011, members of every generation have an opportunity to shine a spotlight on the American legacy that proudly defines all of us: leadership in the fight to end AIDS.