Over 70 million people have been infected with HIV-AIDS, but only one has been cured. Thanks in large part to the generosity of the United States, over 8 million people world wide are now on life saving antiretroviral therapy.
1.7 million people died of an AIDS related illness last year. The International AIDS Society Conference is in Washington this week for the first time in 22 years, and Laura Bush will be speaking to the gathering.
AIDS prevention is a major focus for rockstar Elton John. He says the president who did the most for AIDS victims was George W. Bush: “He was an amazingly informed about AIDS. I had so much respect for him, especially when the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) was announced when he gave $15 billion to AIDS.
“He knew what he was talking about. One of the old adages in life is never judge someone until you meet them. I didn’t like his policies but I have to say when I met him, I found him well informed and determined to do something about the AIDS situation so I changed my opinion of him. I learned a lesson.”
The Bush initiative was largest amount of funding by any nation to fight a single disease. The major issue facing prevention efforts today is not a lack of technology or funding, but the social stigma associated with HIV, which deters individuals from accessing both education and treatment programs.
Bush was well known for his Freedom Agenda and says “One aspect of freedom is for people to be free from disease.” He has made three trips to Africa since leaving office.