World Aids Day Observance

Heather Higginbottom
Deputy Secretary of State for Management and Resources 
Washington, DC
December 1, 2015

Thank you, Mary Beth, for the kind introduction. It is an honor to join all of you at this pivotal moment of the HIV/AIDS response. Secretary Kerry sends his warmest wishes - as a longtime champion of the world-wide fight against HIV/AIDS, I know he wishes he could be here. I also bring the greetings of our inexhaustible U.S. Global AIDS Coordinator, Ambassador Deborah Birx, who is marking World AIDS Day today with some of our international partners in Zimbabwe.

Many of you in this room have been at the forefront of the HIV/AIDS response here at home and overseas for decades. On World AIDS Day, we have the opportunity to say thank you for your leadership, your courage, and your perseverance. And, we also have the opportunity to recommit to a better future. This year’s theme underscores the urgency of our mission: “The Time to Act Is Now.”

And, right now, we have everything we need – the tools, science, and shared vision – to cut the number of new HIV cases globally by 90 percent. But we are aiming even higher. In September, when the world adopted the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, we committed to an ambitious goal of ending the HIV/AIDS epidemic by 2030. We can realize an AIDS-free generation. But to do so, we must act now. UNAIDS has said we have a five-year window to shift the trajectory of the epidemic. If we don’t seize this opportunity, we risk another 100 million HIV infections by 2030.

The United States is committed to leading the way. In September in New York, President Obama announced bold new HIV prevention and treatment and targets for PEPFAR. By the end of 2017, we will support 12.9 million people with life-saving treatment. We will provide 13 million male circumcisions for HIV prevention. We will reduce HIV incidence by 40 percent among girls and young women within the highest burden areas of ten sub-Saharan African countries.

We can set this bold course because we are building on our past efforts and experiences. Working closely with countries around the globe, the U.S. government is already providing life-saving anti-retroviral treatment for 9.5 million men, women, and children — a more than four-fold increase over the past seven years of this Administration. And we have funded HIV testing and counseling for more than 14.7 million pregnant women in the last year. Have no doubt: we are thinking big when it comes to these challenges.

And, we are using data to evaluate our progress. As Ambassador Birx likes to say, we are using data to do the “Right Things, in the Right Places, Right Now, and in the Right Way.” And the data tells us that empowering adolescent girls and young women is one of the most significant investments we can make to end HIV/AIDS. Because despite all the progress I just cited, more than 1,000 adolescent girls and young women are infected with HIV every day. This population has largely been left behind. And this must change.

That’s why President Obama announced a target specific to women and girls. And that’s why on World AIDS Day last year, we launched the DREAMS partnership with the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and Girl Effect to reduce new infections and keep adolescent girls and young women “Determined, Resilient, Empowered, AIDS-free, Mentored, and Safe.”

Today, I am pleased to announce that we are expanding DREAMS by adding three new private sector partners to the effort: Johnson and Johnson, Gilead Sciences, and Viiv [Veev] Healthcare. We thank these organizations for joining us in this fight because with their expertise, innovations, and resources, DREAMS can have an even greater impact.

I am also proud to announce the creation of the DREAMS Innovation Challenge Fund, which will infuse new thinking and resources into our efforts to reduce HIV infections in adolescent girls and young women. PEPFAR is committing an additional $80 million for this effort, and our private sector partners are committing more than $25 million to support DREAMS, including through the Innovation Challenge Fund.

We know that grassroots operations are essential to a sustainable result; and so about half of the new resources will support community-based organizations. This is a tremendous start, but the size of the challenge calls for even greater commitments. And so today, we invite all of you to join us in committing to an AIDS-free future for young women and girls.

The global HIV/AIDS epidemic is one of the greatest challenges we face. We’ve made much progress. But, we are aiming even higher to strive for a world where one’s sex, age, or sexual orientation does not determine access to life-saving medicine or HIV prevention services. Because with that achievement, we can imagine the moment in which we all join together in solidarity to finally beat this unrelenting epidemic.

Thank you.