On Tuesday, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton delivered an address at the National Institutes of Health laying out America’s renewed commitment to the fight against global HIV/AIDS. Citing major advances of the last several years, including the benefits of scaled-up male medical circumcision, improved mother-to-child transmission prevention, and early initiation of AIDS treatment which reduces transmission by 96%, Clinton offered a glimpse of what Yalies and other students alike have been clamoring about for quite some time: the beginning of the end of AIDS. If the US reaffirms the strong leadership it has demonstrated in the global HIV/AIDS epidemic since 2003, our generation could see an AIDS-free world within our lifetime.
It was just one year ago that a group of Yalies and Harvard students decided to express our discontent with the Obama administration’s lack of leadership on this issue. President Obama had hit the road to support his party in the midterm elections, and we met him at a stop in Bridgeport, Connecticut. Students in Boston and Philadelphia used similar tactics to ensure that the President heard our voice. The decision to protest the president was not an easy or popular one. Many of us had campaigned for President Obama, even donating money to his election effort, and many of us continue to vehemently support him on most other fronts.
It is therefore with great pleasure that we applaud the statements of Secretary Clinton. Her encouraging rhetoric marks a major shift in both the administration’s tone and our mission as student global health and AIDS activists. If the Obama administration stands behind the necessary scale-up of global AIDS efforts with bold new treatment targets, we will gratefully find ourselves once again partners of the President rather than protestors.
There is no doubt that this is a difficult time not just for our economy but for the global economy as well. The recession has left us with a caustic budgetary climate that has made new spending nearly impossible. It would be easy for the President to yield to obstructionist congressional Republicans who use this as an excuse to cut global health programs and foreign assistance.
However, sometimes what is easy is not what is right. Obama’s counterpart in the UK, Prime Minister David Cameron, has made the decision to ring-fence global aid even amid the pressures of the global recession and heavy government spending cuts. Cameron recognized the profound impact that foreign aid has on reducing global inequality and forging a better global community. He made a decision not to balance the United Kingdom’s budget on the backs of those who are the most in need.
As Yalies committed to combating global inequity, we call upon our government to do the same. We are at Yale at a time when more global health courses, fellowships, semester abroad programs and extracurricular groups are available to us than ever before. Like students across the country, we study international development, infectious disease and global health disparities at rates unheard of in our parents’ generation. We have an unprecedented ability to push our agenda forward as a global generation by standing behind the Obama administration’s comments today on the global fight against HIV/AIDS.
And this is a particularly powerful moment to do so. We find ourselves approaching an election season that happens to coincide with the International AIDS Conference next summer in Washington, D.C. With strong leadership on World AIDS Day, we, the generation that elected President Obama, look forward to strongly backing him once again as the 2012 election draws near.
Secretary Clinton’s bold stance yesterday showed that our nation is truly ready to lead the global fight against HIV/AIDS once again. If the President is prepared to stand with us in the fight against HIV/AIDS, we are ready to stand with the President.