Remarks in Recognition of World AIDS Day
Secretary of State
Thank you all very much. Oh my goodness. Thank you. I think we could just end the program right now. (Laughter.) Florence, thank you. Thank you for continuing to be a smiling advocate on behalf of an AIDS-free generation. And congratulations on those two sons of yours, who are the strongest evidence of what we can achieve. I’m very grateful to you for sharing your energy, your story, and your passion with us today.
I am so pleased to have this opportunity to unveil, formally, the blueprint for an AIDS-free generation. And this could not have happened without Dr. Eric Goosby. I’ve known Eric a long time. When I decided to accept the President’s offer to become Secretary of State, I knew there was only one person that I would hope to recruit to become our Global AIDS Ambassador. Because Eric has both the firsthand experience, going back to the very beginning of his medical training and practice in San Francisco, to the vision he has as to continue to push us to do even more than we think we possibly can, and the drive to actually deliver that. He’s a unique human being, and we are so grateful for his service. And I want to return the favor, my friend, and thank you publicly for everything you have done. (Applause.)
Also sitting in the front row is the man who has been leading the government’s research efforts from the very early days of the epidemic, Dr. Tony Fauci. Thank you for being here and thank you for everything you have done. (Applause.)
From USAID, we have Dr. Ariel Pablos-Mendez, who has also been, along with everyone at USAID and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and other government agencies, one of those public servants who has dedicated his or her life to this work.
So I am grateful to everyone in our government who has done what has made all the difference. We could not be making this announcement had it not been for the countless hours in laboratories, at bedsides, in the field, everything that people have contributed.
And also let me thank Michel Sidibe, who has also been on the frontlines, and from UNAIDS, an absolutely essentially organization in playing the irreplaceable role in this fight. Thank you so much, Michel. (Applause.)
And Dr. Dlamini-Zuma, the first woman to chair the African Union Commission, a longtime public servant, government official, activist in South Africa. The AU is a critical partner in our work against HIV/AIDS, and I don’t think there’s anyone who is better positioned to lead the AU at this time. And the fact she’s the first women to lead the AU in its 50-year history is an additional benefit. Thank you so much, my friend. (Applause.)
And to Senator Enzi and Congresswoman Lee and Congressman Bass, who truly have been leaders, but also represent members of Congress on both sides of the aisle. This is a program that really has had bipartisan support – the leadership of President Bush in creating PEPFAR, the commitment and leadership of President Obama. This is something that I think has really made a difference for Americans and for America. It represents our very best values in practice.
So to all the members of Congress, the advocates and activists, the scientists, people living with HIV, thank you for joining us as we take this next step in the journey we began years ago, but which we formally announced a year ago, to change the course of this pandemic and usher in an AIDS-free generation.
Now, make no mistake about it: HIV may well be with us into the future. But the disease that it causes need not be. We can reach a point where virtually no children are born with the virus, and as these children become teenagers and adults, they are at a far lower risk of becoming infected than they are today. And if they do acquire HIV, they have access to treatment that helps prevent them not only from developing AIDS, but from passing the virus on to others.
Now earlier this year, at the International AIDS Conference here in Washington, I described some of the steps we have taken to achieve an AIDS-free generation. And today, I want to step back and make two broad points about this goal.
First, let’s remember why, after so many years of discouraging news, this goal is now possible. By applying evidence-based strategies in the most effective combinations, we have cut the number of new infections dramatically. Just last week, UNAIDS announced that, over the past decade, the rate of new HIV infections has dropped by more than half in 25 low-and-middle-income countries, most of them in Sub-Saharan Africa. Just listen to these numbers: In Zimbabwe, a 50 percent reduction; in Namibia, a 68 percent reduction; and in Malawi, a 73 percent reduction in the rate of new infections.
So as we continue to drive down the number of new infections and drive up the number of people on treatment, eventually we will be able to treat more people than become infected every year. That will be the tipping point. We will then get ahead of the pandemic, and an AIDS-free generation will be in our sight. Now, we don’t know how long it will take to do this everywhere, but we know that we can do it.
And that brings me to the second point: We’ve set the goal. We know it’s possible. Now we have to deliver. That may sound obvious, but it isn’t, because the history of global health and development is littered with grand plans that never panned out. And that matters, because if we make commitments and then fail to keep them, not only will our credibility be diminished, but people will lose heart. They will conclude, wrongly, that progress just isn’t possible, and everyone will lose faith in each other. That will cost lives. And in the fight against HIV/AIDS, failing to live up to our commitments isn’t just disappointing, it is deadly.
That’s why I am so relentlessly focused on delivering results. In July, I asked Eric Goosby and his team to produce a plan to show precisely how America will help achieve an AIDS-free generation. As I said then, I want the next Congress, the next Secretary of State, and our partners everywhere to know how we will contribute to achieving this goal. And the result is the blueprint we are releasing today. It lays out five goals and many specific steps we will take to accomplish those goals.
First, we are committing to rapidly scaling up the most effective prevention and treatment interventions. And today, I can announce some new numbers that show how far we’ve already come. This year, through PEPFAR, we directly supported nearly 5.1 million people on antiretroviral treatment. (Applause.) That is a 200 percent increase since 2008.
Now, think for a moment what this means. What did Florence say was the only hope she could give her fellow women living with HIV? She said it was the ARVs. And this year, the American people gave that hope to more than 5 million of their fellow citizens on this earth. And through them, we gave hope to their families and communities, and I think that should make every American profoundly proud.
Now, our second goal is that the blueprint says we have to go where the virus is, targeting the populations at the greatest risk of contracting HIV, including people who inject drugs, sex workers, and those trafficked into prostitution, and men who have sex with men. (Applause.)
When discrimination, stigma, and other factors drive these groups into the shadows, the epidemic becomes that much harder to fight. That’s why we are supporting country-led plans to expand services for key populations, and bolstering the efforts of civil society groups to reach out to them. And we are investing in research to identify the interventions that are most effective for each key population.
As part of our effort to go where the virus is, we are focusing even more intently on women and girls, because they are still at higher risk than men of acquiring HIV because of gender inequity and violence. So we are working to ensure that HIV/AIDS programs recognize the particular needs of women and girls, for example, by integrating these efforts with family planning and reproductive health services. (Applause.) We are also working to prevent and respond to gender-based violence, invest in girls’ education, address gender inequality, and take other steps that have been proven to lower their risk of contracting the virus.
Third, we will promote sustainability, efficiency, and effectiveness. We’ve already saved hundreds of millions of dollars by switching to generic drugs in our treatment regimen. And we will continue to ensure that we get the most out of every dollar spent.
Fourth, we will promote a global effort to achieve an AIDS-free generation, because this must be a shared responsibility. That means our partner countries must step up to the responsibilities of country ownership. And we look to our partner countries to define the services their people need the most, set priorities, and convene funding partners to coordinate. Donors must meet their funding commitments while also doing more to support country ownership.
To drive all these efforts, the United States will continue to support the Global Fund, we will invest in global health diplomacy, and use our diplomatic leverage to support our goals and bring others to the table.
And I have to say I was so impressed when I was in South Africa this summer. I went to Cape Town. We – Eric and I went together, Ambassador was there, along with the South African Minister of Health, who has been an exemplary leader. Let’s give the Minister of Health of South Africa a round of applause. (Applause.)
He has worked so hard with a great team and with President Zuma’s full support to really take on the responsibility of country ownership and management. And when we were in the clinic in Cape Town, we saw some really impressive developments, including a more efficient way to dispense the drugs that are needed. And it was a great tribute to what the South African Government has been able to do in the last four years.
Now finally – and this is really a call for the entire global health community – science and evidence must continue to guide our work. For our part, the United States will support research on innovative technologies for prevention and treatment, such as microbicides and approaches that stave off opportunistic infections like TB. We will set clear, measurable benchmarks and monitor our progress toward them so we can focus our funding on what works. It is science that has brought us to this point; it is science that will allow us to finish this job.
So with this blueprint, I firmly believe we have laid out a plan that every American president and secretary and Congress will want to build on. And I urge other countries to develop their own blueprints, because to reach and AIDS-free generation, we have to keep moving forward.
So if we have any doubt about the importance of this work, just think of the joy and that big smile on Florence’s face when she told us about giving birth to her two healthy HIV-negative sons. And think of that same sense of joy rippling out across an entire generation, tens of millions of mothers and fathers whose children will be born free of this disease, who will not know the horror of AIDS. That is the world we are working for, and nothing could be more exciting, more inspiring, more deserving of our dedication than that.
So I thank everyone across our government, because I know this was a whole-of-government effort. I thank you all for everything you have done, are doing, and will do to deliver on this important goal.
And now it’s my great pleasure to welcome my friend and partner in the effort to the stage, the leader of UNAIDS, Michel Sidibe. (Applause.)