International HIV/AIDS Support Dr. Deborah Birx was sworn in on April 25 as the new Ambassador at Large and U.S. Global AIDS Coordinator by U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry. Ambassador Birx’s role, which she will undertake from Washington, DC, will be to lead all U.S. government international HIV/AIDS efforts through the implementation of the U.S. President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR). PEPFAR has been working with the Government of the Republic of Zambia and other partners to carry out a shared response to HIV for 10 years.
Ambassador Birx is a renowned medical expert in the field of HIV/AIDS. For more than three decades, her career has focused on HIV/AIDS immunology, vaccine research, and global health. Since 2005 she has directed the Division of Global HIV/AIDS at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and previously was the director of the U.S. Military HIV Research Program at the Walter Reed Army Institute of Research, retiring at the rank of Colonel.
“The partnership between the United States government, through PEPFAR, and Zambia has helped to change the course of the HIV/AIDS epidemic in the country,” said Ambassador Birx. “Zambia is a prime example of how smart investments, when applied strategically and with mutual accountability, can have an extraordinary impact.”
The partnership between Zambia and the United States through PEPFAR is yielding impressive results: between 2001 and 2011, the rate of new HIV infections dropped by 58 percent. “Today, more than 500,000 Zambians are accessing life-saving antiretroviral treatment (ART),” said Kristie Mikus, PEPFAR Country Coordinator. “However, there is still work to be done to get to zero new infections, including targeting key populations affected by HIV.”
“We strive to reach all affected populations with core HIV services even when facing difficult cultural contexts, [or] severe stigma and discrimination,” Ambassador Birx noted in a statement outlining PEPFAR’s public health approach.
Ambassador Birx visited Zambia in July 2013, accompanying President Bush on a visit to rehabilitate the Mosi-Oa-Tunya clinic outside of Livingstone as part of the Pink Ribbon Red Ribbon (PRRR) initiative. The United States Government through PEPFAR and the Government of the Republic of Zambia are both partners in PRRR to combat cervical cancer in Zambia through increasing access to cervical cancer screening and treatment for Zambian women.
The United States has contributed more than USD $2 billion since the start of PEPFAR in this country 10 years ago. Through its partnership with the Government of the Republic of Zambia, the United States is committed to realizing an AIDS-free generation in Zambia.