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Ambassador Michael C. Gonzales' COP23 Press Statement
May 3, 2023

Ambassador Michael C. Gonzales
COP23 Press Statement
Kenneth Kaunda International Conference Center
2:30 – 4:30 pm. May 2, 2023

(as prepared for delivery)

Honorable Minister of Health, Sylvia T. Masebo, MP
Honorable Minister of Defence, Mr. Ambrose Lwiji Lufuma, MP
Honorable Minister of Finance, Dr. Situmbeko Musokotwane, MP
Honorable Minister of Education, Mr. Douglas Syakalima, MP
Honorable Minister of Local Government and Rural Development, Mr. Gary Nkombo, MP
Honorable Minister of Community Development and Social Services, Madam Doreen Sefuke Mwamba, MP
Civil Society Representatives and other distinguished guests
Members of the Press
All protocols observed.

Good afternoon. Today I join representatives from the Zambian government to announce the United States, through the U.S. President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR), planned commitment to contribute $761.5 million dollars toward Zambia’s national HIV response over the next two years.  This investment brings PEPFAR’s total commitment to Zambia’s HIV response to over $6.7 billion dollars in the past 20 years.

The U.S. government’s commitment and partnership with the Zambian government has led to remarkable successes.  Today, over 1.2 million Zambians receive HIV treatment, and the life expectancy of Zambians has improved from 48 years in 2003 to 68 years today.  Zambia has seen a 50 percent reduction in new infections since 2010 and has exceeded UNAIDS targets in HIV treatment coverage and viral load suppression.  These successes mean there are people alive, here today, who don’t remember when HIV was the leading cause of death in Zambia.  It is up to us, not to remind them of those days, but to prevent the return of those times by increasing equitable access to comprehensive HIV prevention and treatment services.

Today, we gather with the line ministries integral to the ongoing work in the HIV response to announce planned U.S. government funding that will help Zambia address persistent gaps that have stood in the way of an AIDS-free Zambia.  The priorities outlined in the Country Operational Plan are driven by data that points us to geographical locations and populations who have not fully benefitted from the lifesaving prevention and treatment available in Zambia.  Ending HIV as a public health threat by 2030 demands that we reach all people everywhere, in all age groups and genders.  That means we must stop new HIV infections in adolescents and young people.  No child in Zambia should contract HIV and all children who are living with HIV should receive the lifesaving treatment that can extend and enhance their lives. Persons with disabilities should have increased access to HIV information and services and key populations including men who have sex with men, transgender people, sex workers, people who inject drugs, and people in prisons and other enclosed settings must have access to treatment and prevention if Zambia wants to truly end HIV as a public health threat by 2030.  That is why with collaborative, participatory, meaningful, and effective partnership with the Ministry of Health, Ministry of Finance, Ministry of Community Development and Social Services, Ministry of Defence, and civil society organizations is so vital.  These groups, along with people living with HIV, people from key populations, and advocates of children and pregnant and breastfeeding women, as well as international and national multilateral partners, joined together to develop this plan.

Though Zambia has made great achievements in HIV prevention and treatment, we still have a long way to go. Let’s work together to and ensure children, who cannot advocate for themselves are linked to the HIV treatment they need to live healthy lives. Allow for adolescents and young people to choose the prevention methods they need to stop HIV infection and remove the structural barriers that deter people from accessing HIV services.  If you are HIV negative and think you are at risk of HIV infection, access prevention tools such as pre-exposure prophylaxis or PrEP.  If you do not know your HIV status, or if you are living with HIV and you do not know the HIV status of your children, or if you are looking after orphaned children, get yourself and those children screened for HIV, and if positive, get on HIV treatment and stay on treatment to stop the spread of the virus and to live healthily.