December 11, 2017
Your Excellency President Edgar Chagwa Lungu
Your Excellency Dr. Kenneth David Kaunda, First President of the Republic of Zambia
Honorable Chief Justice Irene Mambilima
Honorable Speaker of the National Assembly Dr. Patrick Matibini
All of the Honorable Cabinet Ministers present and other senior government officials
UN Resident Coordinator Janet Rogan and my other diplomatic community colleagues
U.S. government officials
Members of the media
Ladies and Gentlemen…
It is an honor to be here with you all today — a day of remembrance and a day of resilience. Zambia is truly at an unprecedented moment in the fight against HIV. For the first time in modern history, we have the opportunity to change the very course of an epidemic without a cure or vaccine.
The United States, through the U.S. President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief, more commonly known as PEPFAR, remains committed to seeing an AIDS free generation in Zambia.
Since 2004, the U.S. government has contributed well more than $3 billion towards Zambia’s fight against HIV. In this coming year, we will contribute more than $400 million (or more than 4 billion Kwacha) towards Zambia’s national HIV response. We are proud of this work, and believe that our continued partnership with Zambia can lead to epidemic control here by the end of 2020.
It is hard to believe that less than 15 years ago there were fewer than 5,000 individuals accessing antiretroviral (ARV) treatment. Today, more than 740,000 people are accessing this lifesaving service. This is an amazing accomplishment that has drastically changed the health landscape in Zambia. People are healthier, living longer, and are better able to care for their families. All of this is worth celebration.
However, in the midst of celebration, we must also be honest about the persistent stigma and discrimination that continues to surround the HIV response in Zambia. The fear associated with stigma and discrimination is one of the greatest barriers to achieving HIV epidemic control. Despite all of the scientific advances and increased access to ARVs, people continue to be afraid of knowing and disclosing their HIV status. At times, people even delay starting HIV treatment—choosing to seek out unfounded healing methods in hopes of changing their status. Let’s be clear. Avoiding your HIV status will not change your status. It will only put your health, and the health of your loved ones, more at risk.
We have been fighting HIV for more than thirty years. We have the science, we have the funding, and perhaps most importantly, we have the political will necessary to win this fight. At the 2017 United Nations General Assembly, U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson launched the PEPFAR Strategy for Accelerating HIV/AIDS Epidemic Control (2017-2020). The Strategy sets a bold course for accelerated PEPFAR-supported implementation in a subset of 13 high-burden countries, which have the greatest potential to achieve HIV/AIDS epidemic control by the end of 2020. Zambia was identified as one of the 13 countries that PEPFAR will support to reach 90-90-90 across all ages, genders, and at-risk groups in the next three years.
This translates into a tremendous amount of resources and effort, making it critical for Zambians to seize the opportunity to change the course of the epidemic. Specifically, I am urging all Zambians to do three things:
- Know your status;
- Start treatment immediately if positive; and
- Take action to reduce stigma and discrimination.
At the end of the day, Zambia’s success, our collective success, to control this epidemic comes down to the individual–the parent, the husband, the wife, the sister, the brother, the friend—all of the people who make up our communities. I encourage all of us to use the opportunity of World AIDS Day to take stock in our areas of influence, and recommit to being a positive force in the fight against HIV.
Finally, before I end, I would be remiss to not mention the critical role of the Zambian Government in the fight against HIV. The United States is proud to partner with the Zambian Government. We are grateful for its leadership, and the demonstrated commitment to achieving HIV epidemic control by 2020. This includes the country-wide rollout of Test & Treat, fast-tracking epidemic control through the Lusaka ART Surge Campaign, continuing annual funding for ARVs, and investing in human resources.
On this day, we remember those we have lost to this epidemic and we celebrate the successes and innovations achieved to combat it. The U.S. government and the American people stand with Zambia and look forward to working with you towards the common goal – an AIDS-free world.