Remarks by U.S. Ambassador to Zimbabwe, Harry Thomas
World AIDS Day 2016
December 1, 2016
Mbizo Stadium, Kwekwe, Zimbabwe
- The Vice President of the Republic of Zimbabwe Honorable Emmerson Dambudzo Mnangagwa
- Honorable Minister of Health and Child Care, Dr. David Parirenyatwa
- Honorable Minister of State for Midlands Province, Honorable Jason Machaya and other Honorable Members of Parliament
- The Mayor of KweKwe Counsellor Matenda Madzoke
- Members of the diplomatic corps
- Traditional Chiefs here present
- Distinguished guests and representatives of the community of professionals who contribute to the national response to HIV and AIDS
- My fellow USG PEPFAR Team members
- The many individuals infected and affected by HIV and AIDS
- Ladies and gentlemen
It is my pleasure and a great honor to be part of this important commemoration. Let me start by congratulating the government of Zimbabwe, especially the Minister of Health and Child Care, Dr. Parirenyatwa and his team for leading the way in the response to HIV and AIDS.
Your World AIDS Commemoration theme, “Closing the Tap to New HIV Infections” is a bold choice which calls for everyone to make smart investments to reach those in need and most at risk. With smart and targeted investments, we can prevent new HIV infections and save millions of lives.
This is my second diplomatic posting in Zimbabwe. I was assigned here 25 years ago as a Political Officer. At that time, the HIV and AIDS epidemic was at its peak and the global and national responses were yet to gain momentum. Upon my return, it has been encouraging to note that the Zimbabwe government is implementing robust prevention and treatment programs aimed at attaining an AIDS-free generation. In the time that I have been in Zimbabwe, I am encouraged by the collaboration and enthusiasm demonstrated by health professionals and communities as they deal with HIV and AIDS related issues.
I am particularly impressed by the solidarity shown across the wide group of stakeholders in this fight against HIV, which is most clearly demonstrated through the adoption of the UNAIDS Fast Track ’90-90-90′ targets.
The United States Government is committed to ending the global AIDS epidemic through our flagship program, the U.S. President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief, or PEPFAR. PEPFAR uses data to invest in evidence-based interventions in the geographic areas and populations with the greatest HIV burden. This includes the implementation of a comprehensive package of HIV care, treatment, and prevention activities in 36 of Zimbabwe’s 60 districts. We believe that working with the most HIV-affected districts to control the epidemic will yield tremendous results for the entire nation.
PEPFAR remains the largest financial commitment by any nation in history to combat a single disease. In the last 10 years, we have contributed over one billion dollars to Zimbabwe for the HIV response through PEPFAR and the Global Fund.
In addition to investing financially in the HIV response, we also invest with our voices, and with our capacity to effect positive change in the lives of those needy communities. For instance, since the beginning of 2016, PEPFAR has supported the DREAMS initiative, designed to empower adolescent girls and young women to be Determined, Resilient, Empowered, AIDS free, Mentored and Safe. I am encouraged to note that DREAMS blends seamlessly with the recently adopted framework for “Start Free”, “Stay Free”, “AIDS Free”.
The adoption of “Treat All” as recommended by the World Health Organization is a promising new development towards the attainment of the three nineties. I am pleased to say that some PEPFAR supported partners, with the endorsement of the Ministry of Health, are already implementing the “Treat All” initiative in the DREAMS districts.
PEPFAR also stands firmly and unequivocally for ensuring access to services for key populations. When one community member is stigmatized, or unable to access services due to discrimination, the health and dignity of everyone in that community are threatened.
PEPFAR’s new $100 million Key Populations Investment Fund will support innovative community-led approaches to address critical issues and gaps that exist for key populations in the HIV response. The Fund will also focus on reducing stigma and discrimination, empowering community leaders in the design and delivery of services, and increasing the quality of data on key populations.
After more than 30 years of responding to the HIV epidemic, Zimbabwe is at a turning point where an AIDS-free generation is not only possible but is in sight.
The Zimbabwe Population-Based HIV Impact Assessment, or ZIMPHIA, marks the first time Zimbabwe has detailed provincial level data about HIV testing coverage, treatment coverage, and viral load suppression in both Zimbabweans who access the health system as well as those who don’t. The results of ZIMPHIA, along with the results from the Zimbabwe Demographic and Health Survey, ZDHS, will provide critical information to point us in the right direction.
We believe in partnerships in order to achieve the best results. PEPFAR supported interventions are good examples of the strong collaboration between the people of Zimbabwe and the United States Government in addressing the health needs of the communities. Through the contributions of the U.S. government, the United Nations family, Global Fund, the private sector, the faith-based community, civil society, key populations and other partners, we can end the AIDS epidemic by 2030.
Collectively, we have the tools and the data available to deliver this result. Of course, it is up to the people of Zimbabwe to make the most of these opportunities and play their own role in ensuring they know their HIV status, access treatment immediately if they are HIV-positive, and make sure they take their ARVs every day to keep the virus suppressed.
The U.S. will continue to support the people – and government – of Zimbabwe to reach the 90-90-90 targets and ultimately achieve an AIDS-free generation.
Together we can achieve more!
Tatenda, Siyabonga, Thank you.