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 Monday.
"We want to get to the end of AIDS," a top U.S. HIV researcher, Dr. Anthony Fauci of the National Institutes of Health, told the International AIDS Conference.
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 life-saving drugs that come with the bonus of keeping them from infecting others.
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 life-saving 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.
Clinton said it's possible to virtually eliminate the transmission of HIV from infected pregnant women to their babies by 2015, by getting the mothers onto anti-AIDS drugs. HIV-infected births are dropping steadily worldwide, although some 330,000 children became infected last year. Clinton said the United States has invested more than $1 billion toward that goal in recent years and is providing an extra $80 million to help poor countries finish the job.
Much of the AIDS conference is focused on how to get treatment to all people with HIV, because good treatment can cut by 96 percent their chances of spreading the virus to sexual partners.
The world spent $16.8 billion fighting AIDS in poor countries, the hardest-hit, last year, and the United States is the leading donor.
But Bill Gates, the Microsoft founder and philanthropist, said the world is facing incredible uncertainty about whether wealthy nations will continue funding AIDS programs with the same vigor as in the past.
"As these budget trade-offs are made, the voices of the AIDS community and the global health community are going to have to be louder than ever," said Gates, whose Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation has pledged more than $1 billion to global AIDS efforts.