Remarks by U.S. Ambassador Daniel L. Foote at the Launch of the Eastern Province HIV Epidemic Control Surge

Mpezeni Park, Eastern Province, Zambia
November 5, 2018

Honorable Minister of Health, Dr. Chitalu Chilufya
Honorable Provincial Minister, Makebi Zulu
Honorable Chief Madzimawe
Ladies and Gentlemen
All other protocols observed

Good morning.  Muli bwanji.

On behalf of the U.S. government, I take pleasure in helping to launch the Eastern Province HIV Epidemic Control Surge, an initiative of the Ministry of Health, in collaboration with the U.S. government through the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief, more commonly known as PEPFAR.  The objective of the “Surge” is to motivate and focus efforts towards the common goal of reaching HIV epidemic control by 2020.  This marks the fourth surge campaign in Zambia, with sister surges in Lusaka, Copperbelt, and Southern Provinces.  The increasing momentum is inspiring and provides a strong foundation for the country to achieve its goal.

I would like to commend the Zambian government, particularly the Ministry of Health for embracing the surge campaign.  Together, we aim to identify 90 percent of people living with HIV in the province.  From that group, we would like to get 90 percent on life-saving antiretroviral therapy, and fully control HIV in 90 percent of those who are on treatment through viral suppression.  According to UNAIDS, reaching these 90-90-90 targets will allow us finally to control the HIV epidemic.  Science now shows that people who are on treatment with fully suppressed virus cannot transmit HIV to their sexual partners or children and are able to have a normal life expectancy, especially if they are diagnosed and put on treatment before the virus destroys their immune system.  This is why we are having this campaign; no one should die unnecessarily from HIV or pass it on needlessly to their loved ones.

The U.S. government, through PEPFAR, remains a strong supporter of Zambia’s fight against HIV.  This includes contributing more than $3.5 billion over the last 15 years towards Zambia’s national HIV program.  In partnership with the Zambian government, PEPFAR funding has helped save the lives of well over 1 million Zambians, has prevented new HIV infections for hundreds of thousands more, and strengthened health systems so that Zambians can receive quality health services.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) started working in direct partnership with Eastern Province in 2006.  This year alone, the U.S. government will contribute $10 million U.S. dollars to Eastern Province, the vast majority of which will go directly to the Eastern Provincial Health Office.

As we all reflect on 15 years of PEPFAR-supported tuberculosis and HIV programming in the world and in Zambia, we can now look back and appreciate how the impossible has become possible. This is worth a celebration.

In the midst of celebration, however, we must be cognizant of the work that remains.  Here in Eastern Province, by the end of June 2018, approximately 25 percent — or 24,000 people living with HIV — were not accessing life-saving treatment.  The surge campaign will focus on three districts in particular:  Chipata, Petauke, and Lundazi.  More than 90 percent of those who are not on treatment are in these districts and together we need to find them and put them on treatment.

In closing, I wish to thank the Provincial Minister, provincial health office leadership, and the Minister of Health for their partnership in this exciting new surge campaign.

This is truly an exciting day, and I look forward to seeing the positive impact of this important work.

Thank you.