Decades ago HIV and AIDS were some of the most frightening medical conditions on the planet. However, in the last 10 years deaths from AIDS-related illnesses have been cut by nearly half. This may be partially why Bill Clinton told a large audience at an international conference on AIDS in Australia that we could be close to an AIDS-free generation.

In his address to the crowd, Clinton claimed, “An AIDS-free generation is within our reach.”

The human immunodeficiency virus, or HIV, is what causes AIDS. It can be transmitted through blood, breast milk and by semen during intercourse. After years of research, and trial and error, the virus can now be suppressed with cocktails of drugs known as antiretroviral therapy.

According to Clinton, to reach the goal of an AIDS-free generation, people with HIV have to be found and treated early, care must be delivered to rural and hard-to-reach places and impoverished countries need more support to help fight the disease.

One of the biggest challenges is reducing the spread of HIV through breast milk. "As many as 50 percent of all new pediatric infections occur during the breastfeeding period," Clinton said. "So, keeping these women in care until the end of breastfeeding is perhaps the single most important thing we can do to achieve an AIDS-free generation. It’s our big remaining barrier."

However, Clinton urged, “We should no longer have any doubts, nor should anyone else, that we have the ability to see this effort through to the end.”