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Editorial: Eradicate threat of HIV/AIDS

Great strides have been made in the fight against HIV and AIDS, but more can be done with advances in science to help reduce the spread of the disease.

About 34.2 million people worldwide are living with HIV. Last year, 2.5 million were infected, according to statistics highlighted at this week's international AIDS conference in Washington.

Advances in the treatment of HIV have had a tremendous impact, but that impact has been hampered by the continuing stigma that comes with the disease. Too many people aren't being tested, and as a result the infection continues to spread.

On Monday, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton told those gathered for the conference that the goal is an AIDS-free generation. She said the U.S. was committing to spending an additional $150 million to help poor countries fight the spread of HIV.

Getting treatment for those already infected is key to reducing the spread of AIDS. For instance, Clinton noted that the transmission of HIV from pregnant mothers to their babies can be virtually eliminated with anti-AIDS drugs. The U.S. has almost eliminated instances where babies are born with HIV, and they have been dropping across the globe as well.

Reaching those at the most risk is also a concern. The stigma associated with HIV, or in the cases of intravenous drug users the threat of possible legal action, prevents some high risk populations from seeking treatment.

But all this costs money, and advocates for more treatment and better education that countries that have been devoting money to help eradicate HIV may falter as the economy and budget concerns rise. If that happens, gains that have been made in recent years could be erased.

Progress in the fight against HIV and AIDS has come because of a lot of hard work, research, money and dedicated individuals committed to seeing the infection wiped from the planet. Continuing the fight, and committing to funding it, is essential to continuing our progress in the battle to eliminate HIV and AIDS from our planet.

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