The number of new HIV infections in the United States is higher than previously thought, according to the Center for Disease Control, and former President Bill Clinton believes he knows, at least partly, why.
"I think we got a little bit careless about prevention, and I think we got a little lax on testing," Clinton told MTV News. "And I think it's time for us to go back to basics, especially with very discrete groups where the infection rates are going up."
In particular, the former president mentioned women of color "who are involved with men who have often been imprisoned, who have been infected and may not know it. We need to get into a whole new range of testing of people who are in those risk groups."
The urgency of the AIDS crisis has lessened, he theorized, because of the success of HIV-fighting medicines.
"People look at Magic Johnson, and his massive magnificence, and they think he'll be around until he's 80-something, and I think he probably will be," Clinton said.
In a conversation with Sway last Thursday, Clinton discussed how the William J. Clinton Foundation has
been working both with worldwide governments and pharmaceutical companies to make medicine more affordable for those who need it. (From the same interview, read what Bill Clinton had to say about President Obama and being a father in the White House.)
Clinton's foundation, along with several other non-governmental agencies, including the Gates Foundation, has helped to bring the cost of medicine in poor countries down from $600 a year to $60 a year.
"People don't have to die now because the medicine isn't available or it's too expensive," he said. "What's killing people in poor countries now is the absence of health systems."
To prove his point, Clinton cited the AIDS clinic directly around the corner from his office in Harlem, and contrasted it with medical care in poorer countries like Ethiopia.
"[The Harlem clinic] has got a tough case load, you know — former drug addicts, people who've been in jail, people who were into prostitution, it's tough," he said. But the sheer existence of the clinic means the system is working.
"Eighty-five percent of them take their medicine in a proper way, and they support each other," he said. "They're doing great because there's a facility there."
In a country such as Ethiopia, even though medicine is now affordable, other issues surface. "In the entire country of 80 million, there are only 700 clinics," Clinton said. "So we're trying to [get that number] to 3,500 clinics. What we really need to do is build just basic clinics, test people to see if they are positive, give them medicine, and measure their counts to see if the medicine is working."
Clinton seems optimistic that this is possible, saying the clinics don't even need highly skilled nurses, just "trained community folk."
"People are dying today, and more people are getting infected today than we can treat every year, solely because we don't have comprehensive health-care systems in poor countries, like that represented by the clinic around the corner here," he said.
For more information on HIV/AIDS prevention, visit Think.MTV.com's It's Your (Sex) Life group.