Remarks by Chargé d’Affaires Christopher Krafft — World AIDS Day – December 1, 2016

Chargé d’Affaires Christopher Krafft
World AIDS Day – December 1, 2016
Showgrounds, Lusaka

U.S. Embassy Chargé d’Affaires a.i. Christopher Krafft speaking during the 2016 World AIDS Day event in Lusaka.

Honorable Minister of Health, Dr. Chitalu Chilufya
National AIDS Council Chairperson, Dr. George Tembo
Honorable Lusaka Provincial Minister, Japhen Mwakalombe
Representatives from other ministries
District AIDS Task Force chairperson
Civil society
Cooperating partners in Zambia’s HIV response
Distinguished guests
Members of the press
All of those affected by HIV in Zambia

Good morning, I am Christopher Krafft, Chargé d’Affaires at the United States Embassy in Zambia. I bring you greetings from U.S. Ambassador to Zambia Eric Schultz who could not be here today due to travel outside of the country. I am happy to be here representing the Government of the United States today commemorating my first World AIDS Day in Zambia. On World AIDS Day 2016, we honor the progress that the United States and Zambia have made together and reaffirm our shared U.S.-Zambia commitment to ending the epidemic.

I am aware that this occasion was a much more solemn event in past years. I am happy to be able to celebrate our shared success. But I also want remind all of you here today that although AIDS isn’t taking our loved ones at a tragic pace anymore—it is not often in the headlines—in some ways it is still an emergency.

The U.S. government, through the U.S. President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR), has contributed over $3 billion to Zambia’s HIV response since the program started here in 2004.

I would like to list just some of the achievements that have been made in close partnership with the Government of the Republic of Zambia:

  • Currently we are supporting nearly 700,000 Zambians on antiretroviral treatment.
  • Since PEPFAR started in 2004, 1.2 million men have been medically circumcised in Zambia. These 1.2 million voluntary medical male circumcisions will prevent 43,000 new HIV infections among both men and women over the next 15 years according to the PEPFAR-supported project Zambia Strengthening Oversight and Accountability of Resources.
  • Over the last year alone 2.6 million people received HIV testing and counseling – nearly 200, 000 of those people were HIV positive.
  • 440,000 pregnant women received prevention of mother to child transmission services – greatly reducing the risk of passing the infection to their babies.

Today we will hear from the guest of honor, Minister Chilufya, who will release additional and much-anticipated results from the U.S. government-funded Zambia Population-based HIV Impact Assessment survey (ZAMPHIA). These results will help us better understand the impact of our work over the last decade, and help us focus our efforts and resources moving forward. We are excited about the accomplishments that have taken place towards an AIDS free generation in Zambia.

The theme of World AIDS Day in Zambia and around the world is “Hands Up for HIV Prevention.” Look around Lusaka and other cities for photos of U.S. Ambassador to Zambia, Eric Schultz and others of their hands up for HIV prevention.

In Zambia, adolescent girls and young women are at great risk of HIV infection—no matter her social, economic, or marriage status. HIV prevalence among adolescent girls 15-19 is 4.8 percent compared to 4.1 percent among their male counterparts. This gap widens drastically among 20-24-year-olds: HIV prevalence among women ages 20-24 is 11.2 percent, compared to 7.3 percent among their male counterparts.

Through our DREAMS initiative, we are addressing the complex variety of factors that explain this difference such as gender inequality and power imbalances. We are urgently acting to prevent HIV transmission among adolescent girls and young women to speed up the end of the HIV epidemic.

Test and Start, which initiates all individuals on ART immediately after a HIV positive diagnosis is also an exciting step towards epidemic control. Zambia has been piloting the Test and Start approach in Livingstone, Lusaka and Mazabuka districts; it has shown tremendous success in identifying more HIV infected persons, and improving the number of people receiving antiretroviral treatment and viral suppression rates. Zambia will soon roll out Test and Start nation-wide.

Again, we are excited about this progress.

However, as we discuss and celebrate, we must also take time to recognize vulnerabilities around a long-term sustainable national HIV response. No donor funding can last forever, so it is crucial for Zambia to continue to scale-up its role so that progress is not lost in the long-term.

Towards this, we are proud to say that the U.S. government in partnership with the ministries of health and finance and other stakeholders are working on ways to sustain Zambia’s HIV response. This includes getting as many HIV positive people on treatment as possible to control Zambia’s HIV epidemic. But we need all Zambians to do their part; to put their hands up for HIV prevention. The Zambian government must increase its contribution to the health sector and HIV. And there are things that everyone in Zambia should do:

  • Know your HIV status so you can prevent the spread of the disease;
  • Start life-saving antiretroviral treatment immediately if you are HIV positive;
  • Create a stigma and discrimination-free environment for HIV positive persons;
  • Provide quality health and HIV services to everyone without reservations or judgment, no matter their age, ability, or sexual orientation if you are a health care provider;
  • Use condoms if you are sexually active; and
  • Access services to prevent passing HIV to your baby if you are pregnant.

I close with a call to action. Let’s celebrate the progress we have made, but let’s all do our part: let’s put our hands up for HIV prevention and stop new HIV infections. Let’s remember the threat of AIDS every day, not just on World AIDS Day each year.

Thank you, zikomo kwambiri.