December 1, 2023 – Today is the 35th commemoration of World AIDS Day under the theme “Let Communities Lead,” highlighting the importance of community leadership in ending AIDS as a public health threat by 2030. Attending the 2023 World AIDS Day Commemoration at Lusaka’s Olympic Youth Development Center, U.S. Ambassador to Zambia Michael Gonzales urged Zambians to enable and support communities in their leadership role shaping the national HIV prevention and response efforts and ensuring equitable services are provided without judgement and stigma.
This year also marks the 20th anniversary of the launch of the U.S. government’s President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR). PEPFAR remains the largest commitment by any nation in history to address a single disease, with over $100 billion invested in the global HIV response.
The United States invests in Zambia’s most important asset – its people. The U.S. government is the largest donor to Zambia’s health sector, contributing roughly one out of every three kwacha spent on public health, and providing services to more than 15 million Zambians. The United States through PEPFAR has invested more than $6 billion (135 billion kwacha) to combat HIV and AIDS in Zambia since 2004. This investment is providing over 1.2 million Zambians with free life-saving antiretroviral treatment.
The U.S. government is working with the Zambian government to achieve the “95-95-95” UNAIDS targets, where 95 percent of people living with HIV know their status, 95 percent of those who know their status are on HIV treatment, and 95 percent of those on treatment are virally suppressed. Today, 89 percent of the estimated 1.3 million Zambians living with HIV know their status, 98 percent of those who know their status are on treatment, and 96 percent of those on treatment are virally suppressed. This is remarkable progress, showing that Zambia has surpassed UNAIDS’s HIV treatment and viral suppression targets and is on track to surpass the HIV status awareness goals.
Despite this progress, the incidence of new infections remains unacceptably high. In his remarks, Ambassador Gonzales said, “…success does not just mean identifying those who are HIV positive and keeping them alive and healthy through treatment. Success must include doubling down on prevention and averting new infections altogether. New infections are not evenly distributed across society, but are disproportionately concentrated among babies and toddlers, adolescents, and young women, and other often-stigmatized communities. It is among and in partnership with these communities that we must redouble our prevention efforts. May each one of us use our voices to eliminate HIV-related stigma and empower those that need either HIV prevention or treatment support to access it freely. Zambia’s future depends on it.”
World AIDS Day is an opportunity to honor the lives lost to HIV/AIDS and commit to ensuring the progress made to end AIDS as a public health threat is maintained and not taken for granted. Additionally, this year’s 20th anniversary of PEPFAR is an opportunity to reflect on the great strides the decades-long and unparalleled U.S.-Zambia partnership has made in providing equitable and life-saving services to Zambians impacted by HIV/AIDS.