Obama Administration Announces $300 Million Push To Fight HIV In Africa

The Obama Administration has announced a $300 million initiative aimed at curbing the spread of HIV in sub-Saharan Africa, specifically targeting infections in girls and young woman in 10 separate countries.

The plan has an ambitious goal, aiming for a 25 percent reduction in HIV infections in young girls between the ages of 15 amd 24 by the end of 2016. By the time that the end of 2017 rolls around, the projected target is a 40 percent reduction in such infections. The allotted sum will also help to provide antiretroviral drugs to some 12.9 million people infected with HIV.

The President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief was first established in 2003 by then-president George W. Bush. It currently provides antiretroviral drugs to 7.7 million people worldwide, and has facilitated billions of dollars to combat the spread of the disease since its inception, as Reuters reports. Susan Rice, President Barack Obama’s national security adviser, noted in a statement that a staggering number of young women are still infected with HIV annually, however.

“No greater action is needed right now than empowering adolescent girls and young women to defeat HIV/AIDS. Every year, 380,000 adolescent girls and young women are infected with HIV.”

The 10 nations that will be targeted for HIV prevention are Kenya, Lesotho, Malawi, Mozambique, South Africa, Swaziland, Tanzania, Uganda, Zambia, and Zimbabwe. In total, these countries accounted for half of all newly reported HIV infections last year (among girls and young women). As U.S. News and World Report points out, U.S. officials assert that curbing the rate of HIV infection in young women is key to mitigating the spread of the disease. Every day, more than 1,000 young women and girls are infected with HIV.

In addition to targeting infection among young girls, the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief also aims to provide 13 million male circumcisions by 2017, for the purposes of HIV prevention. The $300 million that will be used for the program had already been allotted to the emergency plan, but is being re-purposed towards the current HIV prevention initiatives.

The announcement of the new HIV prevention targets comes ahead of a U.N. summit aimed at lifting people worldwide out of poverty. President Obama is scheduled to address the United Nations on Sunday regarding the topic.

Since its inception in 2003, the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief has been credited not only with reducing the rate of HIV infection, but also with saving millions of lives in Africa.

[Photo by Chip Somodevilla / Getty Images]