UPDATED: President Obama Pledges $100M AIDS Cure Initiative

In a live White House broadcast to mark World AIDS Day, President Obama today pledged $100M to fund an AIDS cure initiative.

A new initiative at the National Institutes of Health will be aimed at “advanc[ing] research toward an HIV cure,” Obama said at a White House event marking World AIDS Day, which was Sunday. The initiative is aimed at developing “new therapies,” he said. “The United States should be at the forefront of the discoveries how to put HIV in long-term remission without requiring lifelong therapies. Or, better yet, eliminate it completely.” Obama took an optimistic tone, pledging that the United States would “remain the global leader in the fight against HIV and AIDS” until the virus is eradicated. The $100 million in funding over the next three years for the HIV Cure Initiative will be “reprioritized,” the White House said in a fact sheet released, though it did not elaborate on where exactly that money would come from.

NOTE: The live-stream has concluded.

UPDATE: The National Institute of Health has responded via press release.

“Although the HIV/AIDS pandemic can theoretically be ended with a concerted and sustained scale-up of implementation of existing tools for HIV prevention and treatment, the development of a cure is critically important, as it may not be feasible for tens of millions of people living with HIV infection to access and adhere to a lifetime of antiretroviral therapy,” Dr. Fauci noted. “Our growing understanding of the cellular hiding places or ‘reservoirs’ of HIV, the development of new strategies to minimize or deplete these reservoirs, and encouraging reports of a small number of patients who have little or no evidence of virus despite having halted antiretroviral therapy, all suggest that the time is ripe to pursue HIV cure research with vigor.”

Funding for these new initiatives will come from existing resources and a redirection of funds from expiring AIDS research grants over the next three years. NIH Director Francis S. Collins, M.D., Ph.D., said, “Flat budgets and cuts from sequestration have had a profound and damaging impact on biomedical research, but we must continue to find ways to support cutting-edge science, even in this environment. AIDS research is an example of an area where hard-won progress over many years has resulted in new and exciting possibilities in basic and clinical science in AIDS that must be pursued.”