WEB EXTRA: AIDS event draws crowd

America’s global AIDS coordinator said while much progress has been made on slowing down the international epidemic, much more needs to be done.

Ambassador Mark R. Dybul, appointed by President George Bush, spoke to about 100 students from GW, Georgetown and Howard universities in Marvin Center’s Continental Ballroom about Bush’s emergency plan for AIDS relief.

The presentation, called “History and Hope: Is the response to HIV/AIDS transformational?” delved into the topic of global AIDS and the steps the counsel is taking to diminish the disease’s impact.

“A few years ago, the success of (the council) was unthinkable,” Dybul said. “But the tides are turning and we’re off to a very good start.”

The President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief, a five-year, $15 billion project, is the largest commitment ever by any nation for an international health initiative devoted to one disease.

Dybul spoke about the disease’s effect on women, youth, education, economic development and health care. PEPFAR targets 15 countries, including Nigeria, South Africa and Vietnam.

“Hospices are trying to figure out what to call themselves because people aren’t dying,” Dybul said. “Orphanages are trying to figure out what to do with their 17-year-olds. A few years ago, orphans were lucky to live to be 17. We are making progress.”

“Young people make up 50 percent of new infections,” Dybul said. “It is up to you, the next generation, to get involved, to get others involved and especially to stay involved. The U.S. must continue this leadership.”

This subject hits home for many D.C. residents – the city has one of the highest HIV/AIDS infection rates in the United States with one in every 20 people testing positive for the virus.

PEPFAR is making a difference, Dybul said.

“Are societies being transformed? Yes,” he said. “We need to look at what we’re getting out of the money we put in. Only then can we see our results.”

Dybul left the podium with a reference to President Bush’s 2007 State of the Union Address: “To whom much is given, much is required; we must continue to fight HIV/AIDS.”

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