Remarks by U.S. Ambassador Daniel L. Foote
2018 Country Operational Plan Launch and
Commissioning of Kantolomba Pre-fabricated Clinic
Ndola, Copperbelt Province, Zambia
September 11, 2018
I am delighted to be here today to demonstrate U.S. government support for reaching HIV epidemic control in Zambia by 2020. It is hard to believe that less than 15 years ago there were fewer than 5,000 Zambians accessing HIV treatment. Today, more than 890,000 people in this country receive this lifesaving service. This amazing accomplishment has resulted in a healthier and stronger Zambia, and is deserving of celebration.
However, in the midst of celebration, we must also recognize that Zambia is facing the most critical period in the country’s fight against HIV. As this country aims to reach HIV epidemic control in just over a year, we must continue to apply innovative approaches to prevent new infections and reach people living with HIV who do not know their status. Over the next year, our priority will be a rapid expansion of access to HIV services and delivering them to patients in the most convenient manner. Through the 2018 Country Operational Plan of the United States President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR), the U.S. government is pleased to announce our commitment of $385 million to reach this goal.
Today, we will spend time looking at innovative approaches that bring HIV services closer to the people, starting right here with the commissioning of Kantolomba Health Post. I commend the Minister of Health for his commitment to decongesting health facilities, reducing patient travel time, and improving the overall quality of care through the aggressive expansion of decentralized health care. The U.S. government shares these priorities in Zambia, and we are encouraged by the progress to date.
Later, we will visit Lubuto Clinic to see how SmartCare and viral load testing are improving the experience of patients on life-long HIV treatment. Without a cure or vaccine for HIV, we can now nevertheless control the HIV epidemic. Expanding Zambia’s viral load testing platform will provide patients the benefits of viral load suppression—including living longer and healthier lives, eliminating the risk of spreading the virus to loved ones, requiring fewer doctor visits, and providing access to alternative anti-retroviral (ARV) pick-up locations such as private pharmacies.
If you don’t know your HIV status, or if you are HIV positive and not accessing these benefits, I encourage you to do the following things.
First, go immediately to be tested, and if the test comes back positive, demand that your doctors start you on treatment immediately. This is important because the treatment stops the virus from continuing to cause irreparable damage to your body.
Second, if you are on treatment, you need to take your medicines as prescribed by your doctors. It is important that you don’t miss any doses, even if you feel healthy, because missing doses can result in the treatment becoming ineffective in the long-term.
Third, if you are on treatment, it is important to know if you are virally suppressed. Being virally suppressed means that the medicines are working and that you will not pass on the virus to others. This can be determined through a simple blood test. If your test shows that you are virally-suppressed, ask your doctor how you can start accessing the benefits I just described. If your test results show that the virus is not suppressed, ask your doctor about adherence support that can help you reach the level of suppression.
Lastly, make sure always to carry your Care Card when accessing health services. This will allow your doctor to easily see your most recent viral load test results and help him or her to determine the needed frequency of your visits to the health facility and whether you are eligible to receive multiple months of your ARV prescription at a pick-up point of your choice.
The U.S. government remains a committed partner to the Zambian people in the fight against HIV. Over the last 15 years, PEPFAR has invested more than $3.5 billion towards Zambia’s HIV response. We will continue to bring together the unique strengths of different parts of the U.S. government, including the U.S. Agency for International Development, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the Department of Defense, the Peace Corps, and the Department of State. We are proud to partner in this effort with the Zambian government, which has demonstrated strong leadership, a commitment to achieving HIV epidemic control by 2020, and a progressive understanding that sustained epidemic control cannot be dependent on donor resources.