Anyone born after the year 1981 has never lived in a world void of the devastating AIDS virus. Former U.S. President Bill Clinton is confident that not only will the world once again see an "AIDS-free generation," but says that this generation is "well within our reach." In an international conference on AIDS in Melbourne, Australia, on Wednesday, Clinton presented his plan for an AIDS-free generation.
In his speech, the former U.S. president spoke of how “we should no longer have any doubts” of the AIDS elimination effort's effectiveness, Reuters reported. It is true; the fight against HIV and AIDS does seem to be producing results. The number of individuals who died from AIDS-related illnesses continues to fall. It reached an all-time low of 1.5 million deaths in 2013. Compare that with 2.4 million deaths only eight years prior.
Still, 1.5 million people is a large number. It’s nearly the size of Philadelphia, America’s fifth largest city, and greatly exceeds the populations of international marvels such as Stockholm and Dublin. Also, each year more than two million people are newly infected with HIV. This translates to four new infections every minute.
Clinton proposed that babies born with HIV receive immediate treatment and children with the virus be identified and treated. However, the former U.S. leader emphasized that reducing the transmission of HIV through breastfeeding was the number one priority to ensure the achievement of an AIDS-free generation. He said this is because “as many as 50 percent of all new pediatric infections occur during the breastfeeding period.”
Another important step in ending the AIDS epidemic, according to Clinton, was ending the stigma and prejudice toward those who carry the virus. He believes this stigma is the reason certain demographics, such as gay men and prisoners, have such higher numbers of AIDS infections than other groups.