Remarks by Ambassador D. Bruce Wharton
COP Informational Key Stakeholders’ Meeting
Good morning and welcome. I really appreciate your making time to join me and my PEPFAR team today.
I am here first to thank you for your continued partnership with us to ensure that people living with HIV and AIDS have access to quality life-saving services and a strong health system. The national response to HIV and AIDS remains a top priority for us, and success will be driven by your dedication, tireless efforts, and, of course, good guidance. You are the real “public health champions” so let me say, “Well done, ladies and gentlemen!”
We are gathered today to discuss the Country Operational Plan for 2015 that we all refer to as the “COP 15.” This is the plan that directs the actions of the United States President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief – (PEPFAR). Believe me, this is the most talked about document among my PEPFAR team.
In the early days or Phase I of PEPFAR, the program focused on building an Emergency Response. Phase II emphasized sustainability with a focus on collaborative planning, health systems strengthening activities, and increasing the impact of PEPFAR’s investments by scaling up access to treatment, mother-to-child transmission (PMTCT) prevention services, and voluntary medical male circumcision (VMMC). Now, PEPFAR is heading into what may be its most challenging phase yet. Phase III focuses on the sustainable control of the epidemic by reaching the Joint United Nations Program on HIV/AIDS’ (UNAIDS) ambitious 90-90-90 global goals, which stipulate that 90 percent of people with HIV are diagnosed, 90 percent of those diagnosed are initiated on ART, and 90 percent of those initiated on ART are virally suppressed.
Now, COP 2015 is slightly different from the previous COPs as you will learn from my PEPFAR Team. Let me assure you that the proposed changes will enable us to be more responsive and more focused on those core activities that will move Zimbabwe toward epidemic control while delivering on the promise of an AIDS-free generation as outlined in the PEPFAR Blueprint. And, we need a strong partnership with all of you to achieve that goal.
To realize epidemic control, PEPFAR has embraced five key action agenda items: impact, efficiency, sustainability, partnerships, and human rights. I am sure most of you are already working toward achieving those issues. My PEFAR team will share insights on how we can identify critical gaps and bottlenecks impeding sustainable epidemic control.
As we work toward attaining an AIDS-free generation, we must deliver the right thing, in the right place, at the right time.
- The right thing means focusing on a science- and data-driven response and investing in the highest impact interventions to control the epidemic.
- The right place means focusing our resources in key geographic areas where our services are needed most.
- The right time means getting ahead of, and ultimately controlling, the HIV and AIDS epidemic.
Now is the right time to strengthen our relations as partners and fine tune our implementation plan for the coming year. We have a joint responsibility to ensure success of our programs, maintain momentum, and, ultimately, achieve epidemic control. If we work together, I know we can reach the goal of an AIDS-free generation together.
As PEPFAR, we recognize the importance of the 90-90-90 campaign to accelerate epidemic control with a target of eliminating AIDS by 2030. COP 15 is pitched to support these new emerging strategies.
The Government of Zimbabwe is on record urging key partners to continue providing resources to ensure a decrease in the number of new HIV infections. The challenge for us is that we cannot predict the future of funding.
Today’s consultations and discussions should ensure that we, as a PEPFAR program, are doing the best we can for the people of Zimbabwe. I am proud of the way we have lived up to our promise to provide major funding for HIV testing and counseling, care and support to orphans, lifesaving drugs, HIV prevention options such as voluntary medical male circumcision and condom use, laboratory support, training, mentoring, surveillance, evaluations, and other assistance. Now, we must work together to ensure that all of our programs are maximally efficient.
Let me end by re-affirming my government’s commitment to support the response to HIV and AIDS and to continue our support to the Global Fund. Today’s consultations are critical because the decisions we make as partners have a huge bearing on the work we will do in the coming year. Thank you for coming today and thank you for your partnership today and in the year ahead.