August 15, 2017
Your Excellence President Edgar Chagwa Lungu
Honorable Minister of Health Dr. Chitalu Chilufya
Honorable Provincial Minister for Lusaka Japhet Mwakalombe
Other senior government officials
UN Residence Coordinator Janet Rogan and my other diplomatic community colleagues
U.S. government officials
Members of the media
Ladies and Gentlemen…
I am pleased to be here with you…there is great energy here today. And, as Honorable Minister Mwakalombe said earlier, I am also quite happy that His Excellence President Lungu is here to officiate at this event. It demonstrates the importance the Government of the Republic of Zambia attaches to this critically important initiative. Test & Treat is an effort to encourage individuals to know their HIV status and to start treatment the same day if their status is determined to be positive. This is an important step towards establishing an AIDS free generation here in Zambia and the U.S. government proudly supports the Zambian government’s adoption and rollout of Test & Treat.
The U.S. government and its citizens are strongly committed to partnering with Zambia for an AIDS-free generation. Through the President’s Emergency Response for AIDS Relief, more commonly known as PEPFAR, the United States has been and continues to be the largest donor to Zambia’s National HIV Response. PEPFAR is implemented through five U.S. government agencies, including the U.S. Agency for International Development, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control, the Peace Corps, the Department of Defense, and the Department of State; and has contributed more than $3 billion towards Zambia’s HIV response since 2004. At the start of the PEPFAR program in 2004, only 3,500 Zambians had access to Antiretroviral therapy (ART); today, more than 800,000 people are on life-saving ART, largely as a result of PEPFAR.
Prior to the country-wide launch in December of last year, Test & Treat pilot programs were conducted in Lusaka, Livingstone, and Mazabuka and enjoyed great success in identifying more HIV infected persons and in increasing the number of people on ART who are virally suppressed. Those results affirm the impact of the program.
However, further success is up to you and your fellow Zambians and focus should be on at-risk populations. As alluded to earlier by Janet Rogan, Zambia Population-based HIV Impact Assessment (ZAMPHIA) estimates that at age 25, men become significantly more at-risk of becoming HIV positive, and men between 25 and 45 are the least likely to know their status. Women are at increased risk of becoming HIV positive between the ages of 15-24. Zambia cannot achieve epidemic control without the participation of young people. All Zambians are encouraged to know their HIV status, and are also encouraged to help young people manage their increased vulnerability starting at age 15 for girls and 25 for young men. Stigma and discrimination is real, and discourages people from knowing their HIV status. Hiding or ignoring your HIV status will not change your status, it will only make living a full and productive life more difficult. Likewise, communities and households that continue to stigmatize and discriminate against HIV raise their own risk, because the best way to decrease vulnerability is for those who are positive to get treatment. This day emphasizes the need for all Zambians to:
- Know their HIV status, and
- If positive, start treatment immediately.
There is no shame in being HIV positive. HIV is an illness that can be controlled, thanks to ART. To realize an AIDS-free generation in Zambia, communities must support and encourage Zambians to know their HIV status. Services must be extended, without reservation or judgement, no matter an individual’s HIV status, age, gender, or sexual orientation. Those Zambians who know their positive status, and do the right thing by initiating and staying on treatment are the heroes – the ones contributing towards epidemic control and towards Zambia’s stronger future…and those from whom I understand we will be hearing from shortly this morning in testimonies. Let’s now vow for all of us to contribute to that goal.