WASHINGTON -- Science now has the tools to slash the spread of HIV even without a vaccine, and the United States is donating an extra $150 million to help poor countries put them in place, the Obama administration told the world's largest AIDS conference yesterday.
"We want to get to the end of AIDS," declared the top U.S. HIV researcher, Dr. Anthony Fauci of the National Institutes of Health.
How long it takes depends on how quickly the world can adopt those tools, he said -- including getting more of the millions of untreated people onto lifesaving drugs that come with the bonus of keeping them from infecting others.
"No promises, no dates, but we know it can happen," Fauci told the International AIDS Conference.
Part of the challenge will be overcoming the stigma that keeps high-risk populations from getting needed AIDS treatment and services.
"We have to replace the shame with love," singer Elton John told the conference. "We have to replace the stigma with compassion. No one should be left behind." Some 34.2 million people worldwide are living with HIV, and 2.5 million were infected last year.
Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton said the goal is an AIDS-free generation. That would mean no babies would be born infected, young people would have a much lower risk than today of becoming infected, and people who already have HIV would receive lifesaving drugs so they wouldn't develop AIDS or spread the virus.
"I am here today to make it absolutely clear the U.S. is committed and will remain committed to achieving an AIDS-free generation," Clinton told the more than 20,000 scientists, people living with HIV and policymakers assembled for the conference.
In another development, new research shows black gay men are becoming infected with the AIDS virus at higher rates than their white counterparts, sparking urgent calls to address this growing part of the epidemic.
A study funded by the National Institutes of Health tracked black gay and bisexual men in six cities, and found the rate of new infections is 2.8 percent per year. That's 50 percent higher than is seen in white men who have sex with men.
Worse, among those 30 and younger, nearly 6 percent per year were becoming infected. The authors said those rates rival some parts of sub-Saharan Africa.