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Africa: Remarks at a Global Health Event with Partner Countries (PEPFAR)

September 25, 2013 / --

Well, good afternoon, everybody, and thank you very, very much for joining us here. It’s my great privilege to be joined by His Excellency, the President of Namibia, President Pohamba; His Excellency, the President of Rwanda, Paul Kagame; and His Excellency, the Ambassador to the United States, Ebrahim Rasool from South Africa. And we’re very honored to have each of them here to take part. As all of you, we want to have a good discussion. We’re going to open it up with a few opening statements while the press is here. And then when the press leaves, we’ll have a chance to just talk and have a great dialogue about the future here.

We’re really at the cusp of a very exciting new frontier with respect to the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief, known to everybody as PEPFAR. And I’m very proud to be joined by our global partners as well as a group of stakeholders here as we hopefully embrace and implement all of the tools at our disposal to be able to achieve an AIDS-free generation and to improve global healthcare by strengthening our commitments to PEPFAR and the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis, and Malaria.

This has been an extraordinary journey, and I think everybody at this table understands that. A decade ago, PEPFAR created the world’s largest and the most successful foreign assistance program ever. And now, a disease that at one time seemed to be unstoppable is actually in retreat.

I have been gratified to be part of this fight since the beginning, really, and particularly will say to you that I’ve never been more optimistic than we are today, and I think you may share that. I remember the days in Congress when the words “AIDS” was very rarely spoken. And often if it was spoken, it was spoken pejoratively. And I can remember the early days working with Senator Bill Frist or Barbara Lee on the earliest efforts to engage the United States Government on a major global commitment. And it is really heartening to know that now, 10 years after PEPFAR was launched, we are actually able to see and reach out and hopefully touch the prospect of an AIDS-free generation.

So our commitment to this has not only been strengthened by the progress that we’ve made and the lives that we’ve saved, but science has shown the way and has provided us with the tools that we need in order to be able to continue our collective pursuit of what has always been an ambitious goal, remains ambitious but not ambitious without the capacity to realize the ambition, which is particularly exciting.

Last year – I’m sure many of you were there – I was privileged to attend with you the first International AIDS Society conference to be held on American soil in more than two decades. And we all know why it couldn’t be for so long. We finally got that changed. And I’m especially proud to announce today that the United States will host the Global Fund’s Fourth Replenishment in December.

Since its inception, the Global Fund has been a vital partner in supporting country-owned – and this is very important – country-owned responses to address HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis, and malaria. And the United States is proud to be the Global Fund’s largest donor, and we’re challenging other donors to step up their commitments at this critical moment and make the replenishment cycle a success. We’re already encouraged by the increased pledges from the United Kingdom, Denmark, Norway, and Sweden, as well as those from Germany and France earlier this year, who agreed to extend their already current high level of commitment.

So we’re now entering the second decade of PEPFAR. And as you’re aware, the program has taken steps over the past few years to move from an emergency program to a sustainable initiative. U.S. programs, I think it’s fair to say, are still absolutely critical. But now, wherever possible, those programs are going to support countries’ own initiatives against this epidemic, and that’s what’s really exciting about it. That’s, frankly, exactly what our foreign assistance is supposed to do, is to help other countries to be able to take the reins and empower them to be able to confront challenges like HIV and AIDS themselves.

South Africa, Rwanda, Namibia are all on the front lines of this effort. And in the face of one of the greatest moral challenges of our time, each of those countries have responded in extraordinary ways in order to care for your own people. You’re not just investing in your own health capacity, but you are helping to lead the charge to define a new model for U.S. assistance. And we thank you for that. It’s one that empowers and emphasizes co-investment, collaboration, and true partnership. And none of these things can work if it isn’t transformed into sustainability, if it doesn’t become, really, a country’s own initiative.

That’s what country health partnerships are all about. They are about shared responsibility, shared accountability, budget transparency, and a commitment to investing strategically based on what we’ve learned from improved data collection and analysis. These partnerships are country specific to ensure that we are responsive to local needs. And they’ll also benefit from shared decision-making on how PEPFAR resources are allocated as part of a national response.

So make no mistake, please. The United States will continue to be responsible for the stewardship of its funds, and congressional mandates will remain in effect. But we believe that by sharing more decisions with countries, we can advance the principles of country ownership that President Obama and I believe in so strongly. And that will allow us to continue to make progress on prevention, on treatment, and awareness.

Fighting HIV/AIDS isn’t just a first-tier priority of our foreign policy and public health initiatives. And I’m blessed, as I look around the table speaking— we have a group of unbelievably qualified, incredibly experienced, and amazingly capable people at this table. You are the people, all of you, who made this happen over these last years. But beyond being sort of that foreign policy initiative, it’s also a test of our values. And we have to reaffirm our moral obligation, and we have to acknowledge that our shared humanity mandates that we continue to challenge ourselves until we defeat this devastating epidemic.

So with that, I want to turn to our country partners here today and ask each of them if they would offer their perspective on exactly how we take the next step forward together. So let me first, if I may, introduce President Pohamba of Namibia.

Source: Department of State