White House Reaffirms Pledge on World Aids Day

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The Obama administration marked World Aids Day with a pledge to boost its battle against the deadly disease.

A red ribbon has hung outside the White House since Saturday to signify America's commitment fighting the illness.

White House cabinet members met Monday to discuss the President's Emergency Plan for Aids Relief, or PEPFAR.

The program has provided nearly $18 billion to treat AIDS victims in 31 nations since President George W. Bush launched it in 2003.

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton explained the goal of the plan was to form international partnerships to promote a more sustainable method of fighting HIV/AIDS.

In addition, Politico.com reports the program will broaden federal investments in mother-to-child HIV transmission programs.

CBN News spoke with Craig Jaggers of World Vision, an international Christian organization that has helped with HIV/AIDS outreach, like providing food and shelter to children orphaned because of the disease.

Click play for his comments. 

"Promoting the health of women strengthens families and communities and has positive spillover effects in areas like poverty reduction and education," Clinton said.

"We face an unending pandemic--one that spares no one," Clinton warned. "One that unfortunately disproportionately affects the most vulnerable and which is the defining health challenge of our times."

White House Lifts HIV Entry Ban

Meanwhile, the administration is lifting an HIV entry ban that prevented infected people from entering the U.S.

At a news conference, administration officials said new HIV infections are down 17 percent worldwide, with the United Nations reporting that the global HIV/AIDS epidemic is stabilizing.

Still, the number of people with AIDS is at unacceptably high numbers. More than 30 million people worldwide are infected with HIV.

"This World Aids Day we remember those we've lost, we look back on the lives that have been saved and we rededicate ourselves to reaching all those affected--not just around the globe but at home," Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius said.

Sebelius said the challenge in the U.S. is real as more than 50,000 Americans are becoming infected with the disease each year.

In 2005, the Centers for Disease Control found in five major cities almost half of all African-American gay men were HIV positive.

In light of these statistics, the White House acknowledged there is still more work to be done.

"We have to do a better job of talking about it in our places of worship, throughout our communities, our organizations, our schools and our workplace," said Valerie Jarrett, senior advisor to the president.

Jarrett noted that she is no stranger to the devastating disease.

"I watched my sister-in-law die a tragic death," Jarrett said. "I saw members of her family and her 5-year-old daughter, as we all struggled with her death. We have members of the White House staff who have HIV."

World Health Organization figures show more than 33 million people were living with HIV in 2008.

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