Public Affairs Section
United States Embassy
Transcript: DAS O’Connell visit to Zimbabwe
Harare, June 6, 2017: Following her visit to Zimbabwe Carol Thompson O’Connell, Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs visited Zimbabwe for the first time since assuming her position in President Trump’s administration in March 2017. She held meetings with representatives of government and nongovernmental organizations. O’Connell oversees health issues, public diplomacy and public affairs efforts, and Southern African Affairs for the Bureau of African Affairs. Below is a transcript of her briefing with journalists after touring a dedicated PEPFAR funded New Start franchise run by Populations Services International (PSI).
DAS O’Connell: Good morning everyone. Thank you all for coming today. I am so happy to be here. This is my first trip to Zimbabwe and I have had a very warm welcome by all that I have met. And I am especially happy to be here at the New Start Center this morning. We just took a tour of the center and it is absolutely amazing work that goes on here. This really is a one stop shop model for HIV prevention, care and treatment. They have done everything including , not only HIV treatment, TB and also cervical cancer and they have extended services to family planning as well.
So I think the name is fitting that it is a new start when you are able to come in, find out your health status, and be cared for here, and if you are not local , you head back to home and to find a local clinic that can also help support your care, whatever your HIV status or health status is. The epidemic control for HIV is really dependent on a consortium of different groups. We start with the Ministry of Health and Child Care, implementing partners- faith based communities, civil society partners, the private sector and the international community. All of those organizations and the people around those organizations join together to try to provide the most comprehensive care possible.
The United States, through our PEPFAR program has a very good relationship with the Ministry of Health and we look forward to an ongoing relationship with them in the future. I also want to thank the media for the coverage of this event today and for the coverage in general. Knowing your HIV status is critical to controlling the epidemic. We all share responsibility and we hope that whether you are here or wherever you are hearing this message that you go to your local clinic and make sure that you know your status.
The United States, through PEPFAR, is pledging almost $150m in the coming year that will be used to test 2.5 million people and support treatment for over 200,000 people, among other activities such as VMMC, support to orphaned and vulnerable children and also preventative services. We are hoping to increase that amount to include services for voluntary medical male circumcision as well as getting young girls and adolescents into the DREAMS (Determined, Resilient, Empowered, AIDS-free, Mentored, and Safe) program. With that I have time to take some questions.
Question: This trip takes you to where in Africa and the commitment of the Trump Administration to the international world. Can you just say something about that?
DAS O’Connell: Absolutely. I am here, as I said, this is my first trip to Zimbabwe. We have met with various government officials and nongovernmental actors. I will be in South Africa starting Wednesday, I will be attending a YALI conference there, and then I am headed back to Washington. I would say with regard to the new administration, we have heard Secretary (of State Rex) Tillerson say often that Africa is a phenomenal opportunity and that we will be highly engaged. Nothing has changed with our engagement with African countries. There are lots of different issues with the budget, it’s ongoing, it’s changing, it’s a new administration, we are able to provide input into the budget priorities et cetera we are talking with the Congress who will also make their own judgements about our budget priorities. So this is nowhere a change with our relationship with African countries. The United States is still supportive and want to work in partnership with our PEPFAR programs and our other foreign assistance programs.
Question: Could you be a little bit particular about U.S. foreign policy in Zimbabwe given the change in administration in the U.S. And the second part of my question will be that we also understand that the America treasury wants to be involved in vetting people particularly in the Zimbabwean administration, President Mugabe’s administration who will be visiting the U.S.; to vet them in terms of when they want to visit in the issuing of visas.
DAS O’Connell: The relationship with the Zimbabwean government is part of the reason why I am here. We are not trying to vet specific individuals from Zimbabwe but we are looking to the Zimbabwean leadership and then the Zimbabwe government to make political and economic changes so that we can more robustly engage in the country.
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