Remarks During Visit to Gandhi Memorial Hospital

John Kerry
Secretary of State
Gandhi Memorial Hospital
Addis Ababa, Ethiopia
May 1, 2014

SECRETARY KERRY: Thank you. Thank you very much. Thank you. Good morning, everybody. How are you?

AUDIENCE: Good morning.

SECRETARY KERRY: What an incredible, incredible energy I can feel here. You all are amazing in the work that you are doing. And in the small little spaces that I just walked through, I saw how much is going on every single day. So you are maximizing each moment and you’re maximizing every bit of space, and I congratulate you on that.

As I was walking in here, I asked about some of the other activities, and I learned that 25 babies are born here every day – 7,000 or so babies a year, right? And 30 – about 35 percent of those babies are born by cesarean section, so you can imagine how much work is going on here every single day. It’s really quite extraordinary.

And this part of the hospital, the Gandhi Memorial Hospital, is really special. The sign that is back here – you’re just sort of hiding it – but it talks about Ethiopia and the United States of America investing in a healthy future together. And there’s a lot of power in those words, “investing in a healthy future together.” We are doing it together. You’re doing the day-to-day hard work every single day. We’re trying to provide as much medical expertise and as much insight, knowledge as we can to help. But this is your – this is really your program and it’s about your future.

And I am so impressed by the way in which people in Ethiopia have grabbed onto this, and you are making a difference everywhere. Back in 2004, there were about 2.7 million Ethiopians who were HIV-positive, living with the disease. That has been cut by at least a third, but most importantly, for young children, for the children coming into the world, because of the progress that we’ve been able to make, those children now have the chance of being able to live HIV-free. And we are learning how to prevent the transmission of HIV/AIDS from mother to child, from generation to generation, or from wife to unaffected husband or vice versa. This is a huge advance.

There were about, I think, 15,000 children being able to receive antiretroviral drugs back in 2004. Today, it’s about 335,000 who are receiving antiretroviral drugs, and today, there’s an incredible new program in place, the sort of – I guess it’s Plan B+[1]. And through Plan B+, we are now able to guarantee that a mother or a pregnant girl, woman, will be able to receive lifetime antiretroviral drugs if they take part in the program and we are able to be able to make sure that child is born, as a result, HIV-free. That program is taking hold and that’s the promise that is coming through because of PEPFAR, so that we can actually defeat this disease. It’s a huge impact.

Now, I know a story about this hospital. I know that there was a young woman named Ababa who was diagnosed HIV-positive. And she was, after her diagnosis, trying to get to a health center, and she was out in the rain and she was exhausted and tired and she didn’t know – she didn’t have the strength to be able to get where she was going. But some health workers saw her. They didn’t just drive past her. They didn’t ignore her. They helped her. They brought her to the health center. And they were able to find housing for her, they were able to give her treatment, and today, she is one of the people who’s out on the cutting edge of helping other people to know that there is a better alternative, there’s help, there are people there who are ready to be able to make a difference.

So on behalf of every American, I can tell you that Americans are very, very proud to be able to help in this. We’re really – this is the best of countries working together and the best of people working across big oceans and big continents, but coming together because we believe in something for each other. And I think all of you are really amazing leaders in your own right because you’re doing the hardest work every single day. You are working here to make a difference in the lives of other people. And the example of what you’re achieving here in Ethiopia is an example that we can take all over the world.

So I hope you feel very proud of it. I want you to know how pleased I am to be able to come here today and learn something about the Gandhi Memorial Hospital and to meet all of you who are working so hard. So thank you very, very much for everything you are doing, and congratulations to all of you. Thank you. (Applause.)


[1]The Secretary is referring to Option B+