By Bob Vitale
Former President Barack Obama delivered a hopeful message ahead of Friday’s World AIDS Day, recapping worldwide progress in treatment of the disease and saying “we can end this pandemic once and for all.”
In a videotaped message on Tuesday’s “Jimmy Kimmel Live!,” Obama credited policymakers and philanthropists for advances against HIV/AIDS but reserved his highest praise for organizers, activists, doctors, nurses and researchers who have been on the front lines since the first cases were identified in 1981.
“Above all,” he said, we should honor “courageous people living with HIV who led the fight to spare others the anguish of this disease.”
Obama was part of what has become an annual World AIDS Day broadcast by Kimmel. Tuesday was the third year in which the late-night host turned over his entire show for a shop-a-thon to benefit (RED), the decade-old effort that has generated $500 million for global programs to prevent and treat HIV/AIDS.
The former president’s message also seemed, in part, to be aimed at boosting the spirits of those opposed to the policies and pronouncements of his successor, Donald Trump. Obama called the good news on HIV/AIDS an antidote to current cynicism and negativity.
“When we reject cynicism and pessimism in favor of a relentless optimism that says however long it takes, however lonely the fight, each of us can make a difference,” Obama said. “That’s what I believe.”
Obama also promised people supporting the (RED) effort that he would let them fly Air Force One for a day and see secret government files on extraterrestrials. An off-camera voice told him he couldn’t do either anymore.
Here is the former president’s World AIDS Day message:
I know we live in a time when cable news and our Twitter feeds can make it feel like cynicism is everywhere. But when it comes to the fight against HIV/AIDS, there’s some genuinely good news to share.
For the first time in history, more than half of all people living with the virus are on life-saving medication. Since the peak of the virus, AIDS-related deaths have been cut in half. Today, more than 20 million people around the world are on antiretroviral drugs that make it possible to live, work and raise HIV-free children.
It sounds like a miracle, but it’s not the result of mysterious forces or chance. It happened because countless people working for years chose to make this progress. Some deployed great wealth and influence. Some—Democrats and Republicans alike—held public office. But far more were simply citizens: organizers, activists, doctors and nurses, scientists, and above all, courageous people living with HIV who led the fight to spare others the anguish of this disease.
That’s how progress happens. When we reject cynicism and pessimism in favor of a relentless optimism that says however long it takes, however lonely the fight, each of us can make a difference. That’s what I believe. That’s why I’m here tonight.
… You can help us end this pandemic once and for all. You can help us win this fight. You can help us change lives and help us write a future full of progress and hope. So let’s all get to work.