Today, Senator John Kerry, Chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee, met with Sir Elton John, Annie Lennox, and UNAIDS Director Michel Sidibé who were in town for the International AIDS Conference. During the meeting they discussed current investments in research, policies and next steps for fighting the AIDS epidemic. They also discussed options for strengthening the PEPFAR and the Global Fund programs.
"It wasn't long ago that an HIV/AIDS diagnosis was a death sentence and stigma prevented many people from being tested or sharing the news with friends and family who could support them," said Sen. Kerry. "That's changing. We're making big strides in prevention and treatment. Because of programs like PEPFAR and the Global Fund, and significant investments in treatment and education, people are living longer, healthier and more productive lives with HIV. I believe that in our lifetime, we will see a vaccine that will bring the epidemic to an end, but, until then, we have to keep moving forward in the fight. We need to maintain the federal investment and marshal the global effort, and we need to keep tearing down discriminatory barriers here at home which encourage stigma, like the ban on healthy gay men donating blood. I'm grateful to Sir Elton, Annie, and Michel for their efforts and dedication, for years and years now, on this issue. Passionate advocates have transformed the AIDS landscape and will help us capitalize on our investment. If we double down, together we can beat AIDS."
Senator Kerry was an original cosponsor of the Tom Lantos and Henry J. Hyde United States Leadership Against HIV/AIDS, Tuberculosis, and Malaria Act of 2008. He worked with former Senator Frist (R-TN) in 2002 on the comprehensive AIDS bill that laid the foundation for the program that became the President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR). In 2008, as part of Lantos-Hyde legislation, the Senate overwhelmingly passed bipartisan legislation authored by Senator Kerry and former Senator Gordon Smith (R-OR) that eliminated the travel ban that prevented those with HIV from entering the United States. Kerry then worked with both the Bush and Obama administrations to ensure that new regulations would be written and on January 4, 2010 these regulations went into place so that HIV positive individuals would finally be able to enter the country.