Remarks by U.S. Embassy Chargé d’Affaires, a.i. David Young: World AIDS Day 2020

Remarks by Chargé d’Affaires, a.i. David Young
National Commemoration of World AIDS Day
Kalingalinga Grounds
December 1, 2020

(as prepared for delivery)

Dr. Chitalu Chilufya, Honorable Minister of Health
Honorable Bowman Lusambo, Minister of Lusaka Province
Professor Victor Mukonka, National AIDS Council Chairperson
Dr. Coumba Mar Gardio, United Nations Resident Coordinator
Ladies and Gentlemen
All other protocols observed.

Good morning.  It is a pleasure to join the Zambian government, UNAIDS, National AIDS Council, and others in the recognition of World AIDS Day 2020.  The Zambian government’s leadership continues to impress us all by maintaining focus on the goal of HIV epidemic despite the challenges we all face from the COVID-19 pandemic.

This year marks the 32nd anniversary of World AIDS Day.  Since the start of this important day in 1988, people and organizations across the globe continue to raise awareness of the HIV pandemic, pay tribute to those who have succumbed to the disease, and share a vision of an AIDS-free world.

“Global Solidarity, Shared Responsibility” is the 2020 global theme of World AIDS Day.  In this spirit, the U.S. and Zambian governments have forged a partnership and jointly witnessed success in the past year towards reaching epidemic control.  Now, more than ever, we must realize our shared responsibility in helping Zambia to accomplish that goal.

The U.S. government’s commitment to ending the HIV epidemic globally and in the United States remains strong.  Our key focus areas include: 1) delivering quality, people-centered HIV prevention and treatment services; 2) strengthening the capacity and resilience of communities and health systems to address the HIV epidemic and other health challenges; and 3) partnering for greater impact, burden sharing, and sustainability.

With longstanding bipartisan support, the U.S. government has invested more than $4.5 billion in the Zambian HIV response through the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief, also known as PEPFAR.  The U.S. government further supports HIV as the largest contributor to the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis, and Malaria.

PEPFAR leverages the power of partnerships by working closely with foreign governments, the private sector, philanthropic organizations, multilateral institutions, international organizations, civil society, faith-based organizations, and people living with HIV.  Through our partnership with the Zambian government, I would like to highlight some of our joint accomplishments over the past year:

Over 1.1 million Zambians are receiving lifesaving antiretroviral treatment;

Of those on treatment, over 90 percent are virally suppressed;

Since its inception, 540,000 adolescent girls and young women received evidence-based HIV prevention services and intervention to ensure they remain HIV-free through the DREAMS program; and

Over 435,000 voluntary medical male circumcisions in ages 15 and above were completed in an effort to prevent the spread of HIV.

I would like to highlight another partnership:  one between the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and Zambia.  CDC’s presence in Zambia started in December 2000 and its work on prevention of mother-to-child transmission of HIV that started at UTH became a key building block for the launch of PEPFAR in Zambia in 2004.  As we celebrate CDC’s 20th anniversary, we also attribute the success in fighting HIV/AIDS in Zambia to the strong partnership and cooperation with the Zambian Ministry of Health and CDC’s data driven public health science approach to addressing the epidemic.

Zambia’s theme for World AIDS Day 2020 is “The Future is Our Responsibility: Let’s Take Action Now!”  As a community of individuals, organizations, leaders, and activists, we have made a huge difference already and made great strides towards epidemic control.  As individuals, let’s continue that momentum and ask ourselves, “How can my actions support our end goal?  What will action look like?”

Here are some answers to those questions:

ACT on getting tested;

If you are positive, ACT on getting treatment, which, thanks to the generosity of the American people, is at no cost to you;

If you are on treatment, ACT on staying on treatment to prevent the spread of HIV to others;

If you do test positive, ACT to have your children and partners screened for HIV;

ACT to eliminate the HIV stigma by action, word, and deed by engaging in dialogue within your communities; and

ACT on creating a tolerant community, one which supports those living with HIV.

I would like to tell you the story of Davies, a 22-year-old young man, who upon seeing a PEPFAR-supported community HIV screening, went to get screened.  This young man acted.  He tested positive, but he also got on treatment.  He told his girlfriend, his friends, and his family.  They have been supportive of him and have encouraged him to continue to stay on treatment.  This is a perfect example of what ACTION looks like.

In 2014, UNAIDS launched the Fast Track strategy for HIV epidemic control.  It highlighted things that each country can do by year 2020 to control the HIV epidemic.  More specifically, the Fast Track strategy laid out the 90-90-90 targets and countries like Zambia have been working to meet these targets by 2020.  I am reliably informed and pleased to announce that Zambia has met the 90-90-90 targets and it is on trajectory to achieving HIV epidemic control–a point at which HIV will no longer be the leading cause of disability and death for Zambians.

This news should be a huge cause of celebration for everyone who has worked tirelessly over the years.  Moreover, we applaud those of you who persevered and did not allow stigma and discrimination to prevent you from knowing your HIV status and getting and staying on treatment.

As we continue to work towards achieving HIV epidemic control, I can assure you that PEPFAR is committed to ensuring all ages, genders, and most at-risk populations in communities know their HIV status, receive life-saving HIV prevention and treatment services, and are virally suppressed if they are living with HIV.  This means focusing on quality, inclusive, client-centered care–meeting patients where they are with what they need–to improve access, retention, and results.

I would again like to thank the honorable Minister of Health and Government of Republic of Zambia for its continued partnership and leadership.  Let’s continue to stand together in solidarity and share the responsibility of epidemic control for a brighter future.