“So make no mistake, we are going to win this fight,” Mr. Obama told an audience of international activists, celebrities and lawmakers of both parties assembled at George Washington University for the annual World AIDS Day, 30 years after the disease was identified. “But this fight is not over — not by a long shot.”
That comment seemed directed at potential donors, whether organizations, individuals or other countries. Advocacy groups say contributions have suffered as perceptions have taken hold that the epidemic has been arrested. Mr. Obama acknowledged that while the rate of infection has declined elsewhere, in the United States it has remained steady, disproportionately hitting the young, African-Americans and Hispanics.
“This fight is not over — not for the 1.2 million Americans who are living with H.I.V. right now, not for the Americans who are infected every day” or their families, Mr. Obama said. And, he added, “It certainly isn’t over for your president.”
For the domestic fight, Mr. Obama announced that he was committing to seek $15 million more for the Ryan White program supporting H.I.V. medical clinics in the United States and $35 million for state programs providing access to necessary drugs. For global efforts, he set a goal of nearly doubling to six million the number of infected people who will get antiretroviral AIDS drugs through a program that his predecessor, George W. Bush, started.
Mr. Bush and former President Bill Clinton appeared by satellite, Mr. Bush from Tanzania, a focal point of the anti-AIDS effort in Africa.
Throughout his administration, activists have complained that the Obama administration has done less for the global fight than Mr. Bush. During the 2010 mid-term election campaign season, they repeatedly heckled Mr. Obama at political appearances — a situation the White House surely wants to avoid as he seeks re-election in 2012.
On Wednesday,Mr. Obama paid tribute to Mr. Bush, calling his contributions “one of his greatest legacies,” but he also strongly defended his own record.
Mr. Obama said that under his administration, the government has increased support for the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria and reauthorized the Ryan White program. And, to applause from attendees including the musicians Bono and Alicia Keys, he recalled that he had ended a ban that prevented people with HIV-A.I.D.S. from entering the country — an action that cleared the way for the United States to host an international AIDS conference next year, for the first time in the gathering’s two decades.
“The president just put a powerful down payment toward the end of the AIDS crisis,” said Matthew Kavanagh, director of advocacy for Health GAP, an activist group, in a statement. And the international group Doctors Without Borders hailed Mr. Obama’s financing commitment as “the shot in the arm that the global H.I.V./AIDS response needs right now,” and called on Congress “to turn this commitment into reality.”
For several minutes after his address Mr. Obama greeted audience members. Then he returned to the White House, where a huge red ribbon hung from the North Portico in honor of World AIDS Day, flanked by two newly decorated Christmas trees.