|A red ribbon is seen on the North Portico of the White House in honor of World AIDS Day. / Brendan Smialowski, AFP/Getty Images|
WASHINGTON - President Obama on Monday pledged up to $5 billion in U.S. money over the next three years to the pre-eminent global program to combat AIDS on the condition that the rest of the international community pitches in $10 billion.
Obama announced the pledge to the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria as the White House marked World AIDS Day. Donor communities were getting ready to begin meetings in Washington on Monday night to discuss the three-year replenishment cycle of the fund.
The 1-to-2 funding ratio is set by Congress, and Obama had already marked $1.65 billion for the Global Fund in his 2014 budget. But activists, including South Africa's Desmond Tutu, had been pushing Obama to make clear ahead of the conference that the United States stood ready to donate up to $5 billion to the fund for the next cycle.
"Don't leave our money on the table," Obama said.
Obama also announced that the National Institutes of Health (NIH) will invest $100 million in re-prioritized funding over the next three years to launch an HIV cure initiative.
Recently, several individuals appear to have been cured of HIV through aggressive therapy, but the methods "are too toxic or premature to apply beyond the research setting," according to the White House. But the White House, in announcing the NIH funding, believes that the research could provide clues to explore new possible treatments.
Obama was also facing calls by a bipartisan group of 40 lawmakers to use the conference and the 25th commemoration of World AIDS Day to announce a new goal for the U.S. government to double its support of treatment through anti-retroviral drugs by the end of his presidency through the President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR). The program is credited with providing millions of Africans with anti-retroviral drugs since its establishment and led to 1 million babies globally being born HIV-free.
Obama announced Monday that PEPFAR has now treated 6.7 million people - shattering the goal of reaching 6 million by the end of this year - but the president won't set a new PEPFAR target until early next year. HIV/AIDS activists criticized the decision to delay setting a new goal.
"PEPFAR's bold treatment targets have driven steep declines in rates of death and new infections worldwide-but the current targets have lapsed, and we cannot wait months and months for a new goal," said Paul Davis, director of global campaigns for the activist group Health GAP.
Obama suggested that he wants to better coordinate goals set by PEPFAR and the Global Fund. The president also said he first seeks to name a replacement for Ambassador Eric Goosby, who until October served as the U.S. Global AIDS coordinator tasked with administering PEPFAR, before setting a new target for the program.
"It's time for the world to come together to set new goals," Obama said. "Right now we are working hard to get a new leader in place at PEPFAR. And once we do, one of our first items of business will be convening a meeting early next year so the United States and our partners worldwide â?¦ can sit around one table and develop joint HIV prevention and treatment goals for the countries where we and the Global Fund do business."