Remarks by Master Sergeant Eric Tabb: Zambian Defense Force Senior Military Command and U.S. Department of Defense Collaboration Meeting on HIV/AIDS

Remarks by Master Sergeant Eric Tabb

Zambian Defense Force Senior Military Command and U.S. Department of Defense Collaboration Meeting on HIV/AIDS

Avani Resort Hotel, Livingstone, Zambia

August 27, 2018

 

On behalf of the U.S. government, I am pleased to stand before you today and officiate this very important meeting.  The U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) supports the commitment of the Zambian Defense Force in its fight against HIV/AIDS in the military.

 

The partnership between the Zambian Defense Force and the U.S. Department of Defense through the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) is much stronger due to the leadership engagement and commitment.  PEPFAR is an investment by the American people in the health of the Zambian people.

 

Since PEPFAR’s inception in 2004, the United States has invested $3.5 billion in Zambia.  From this figure, approximately $170 million has focused on combating HIV/AIDS in the Zambian military, thus establishing the largest DoD program in the world for HIV and AIDS prevention, care, and treatment.

The Zambian Defense Force has led and continues to lead the charge in the battle against HIV and AIDS within Zambia.  The leaders readily understand the negative impact of the disease on the military, their family members, and the civilian population at large.

PEPFAR’s first phase was successful as an emergency response to the immediate ravaging effects of the pandemic.  The second phase took a sustaining approach that focused on strengthening country partnership and ownership.  Here, we witnessed the formation of the Partnership Frameworks signed between the U.S. and Zambian governments.  The current and third phase emphasizes an impact agenda.  As we look to science and data available to inform programs, PEPFAR supports the World Health Organization’s 90-90-90 goals, which state that by 2020:

  • 90% of all people living with HIV will know their HIV status;
  • 90% of all people with diagnosed HIV infection will receive sustained antiretroviral therapy; and
  • 90% of all people receiving antiretroviral therapy will have viral suppression.

These ambitious goals have made it imperative for PEPFAR to re-engineer its programs, ensuring the proper implementation of HIV/AIDS programs by doing the right things in the right places at the right time.

A recalibrated approach to focus on the hardest hit HIV/AIDS areas aims to prevent new infections, increase care and treatment, and enhance Zambia’s ability to manage the pandemic with Zambian expertise and resources.  We have made this change in close collaboration with the Zambian government.

Over the last 14 years, Zambia has made great strides and the military health facilities now support over 28,000 clients on life saving anti-retroviral therapy. BUT there is still more work ahead.  As planning and programing have advanced and the need for accurate information is imperative to evidence-based budgeting, the Zambian Defense Force should take those critical steps to strengthen data management.  The future of the program depends on these actions and senior leadership decision-making would stand to benefit from it.  Moreover, a sero-prevalence study would provide very important information on HIV/AIDS in the military.  Key funding decisions would be made based on these data thereby providing direction and justified continuation of these programs.  I cannot overemphasize the importance of timely access to the study findings.  This would also facilitate strategic investment in the areas of need and in turn address sustainability of the ongoing activities.  Due to the level of funding Zambia has received, the programs are under a high level of scrutiny and a higher standard. Very high benchmarks and targets have been set in order to make strides.

HIV/AIDS disastrously impacts military readiness and is one of the greatest threats to Zambia’s national security.  HIV/AIDS diverts resources needed to defend the sovereignty of Zambia and to promote regional peace, stability, and prosperity.

Continued cooperation between the U.S. government and Zambia’s Ministry of Defense is mutually beneficial.  The Ministry maintains continued support in combating HIV/AIDS in the Zambian Defense Force, and the United States gains a healthy and capable partner to support regional peacekeeping and stability operations.

Our investment in this partnership is indicative of the U.S. government’s recognition of the importance of healthy soldiers and airmen and their families.  I would like to express my sincere appreciation to all the people and organizations whose efforts make this tremendous work possible and continue to do so.  I thank the Zambian Defense Force for its continued leadership; all our PEPFAR partners, FHI360, Project Concern International, Society for Family Health, and American International Health Alliance for their dedication and successful implementation of programs aimed at reducing the incidence of HIV/AIDS in Zambia’s uniformed services, their families, and the surrounding communities.

I salute you!