Lusaka – U.S. Ambassador to Zambia Eric Schultz and Zambian Minister of Health Chitalu Chilufya shared successes from a productive visit to Washington, D.C. where they attended U.S. PEPFAR’s annual DC Management Meeting. The event took place at Ng’ombe Clinic. Minister Chilufya joined the PEPFAR Zambia delegation led by Ambassador Schultz at the February 20-24 meeting in Washington, DC where the U.S. PEPFAR team shared its draft 2017 Country Operational Plan (COP17) with the U.S. Department of State’s Office of the Global AIDS Coordinator (OGAC).
“It’s very appropriate for us all to be here today at the Ng’ombe Clinic to celebrate the planning process that happens in collaboration with the Ministry of Health and other partners before U.S. government resources get to sites,” said Ambassador Schultz. “Decisions to support a site like Ng’ombe Clinic are based on a close look at HIV burden and unmet need. OGAC challenges us to put our resources where we will achieve the most impact.”
Zambia has received more than $3 billion from the U.S. government’s PEPFAR program for its national HIV response since 2004. For the 2017 Country Operational Plan (COP17) cycle, Zambia will anticipate receiving $403 million (about 4 Billion Kwacha). The program currently supports more than 700,000 people on antiretroviral treatment (ART), testing for more than two million people per year, and prevention of mother to child transmission services available to nearly 100 percent of pregnant women.
U.S. PEPFAR’s COP17 focuses on Test and Start–-initiating HIV positive individuals on treatment as soon as they find out their positive status—which Zambia launched nationwide in December 2016, improving links from testing to care services across age groups for both men and women, including adolescent girls. New data shows that 15-24-year-old girls are 15 times more likely to become infected with HIV as their male counterparts.
“The U.S. and Zambian governments have been close partners in Zambia’s HIV response since the beginning of U.S. PEPFAR in Zambia in 2004 and even before,” said Ambassador Schultz. “We are pleased with the progress we have made together and we would not be where we are without real leadership and engagement from the Zambian government. But we still have a long way to go.”
Ambassador Schultz called on the people of Ng’ombe to do their part– to support their families and country–by finding out their HIV status, starting treatment if they are HIV positive, and contributing to a supportive environment so everyone feels comfortable knowing their HIV status and living healthy lives.
PEPFAR’s strategy over the past few years has been to invest now in epidemic control to manage the long-term cost implications of a national HIV program.
“We are pleased with the outcome of the DC Management Meeting and the planned U.S. government contribution to the PEPFAR program,” said Ambassador Schultz. “As we discuss and celebrate, we must also recognize vulnerabilities around a long-term sustainable national HIV response. No donor funding can last forever, so it is crucial for Zambia to continue to scale-up its role so that progress is not lost in the long-term.”