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Secretary Kerry Delivers Remarks at UNAIDS
September 26, 2014

John Kerry
Secretary of State
UN Headquarters
New York City
September 25, 2014

Well, thank you very much. Thank you for a generous introduction. Mr. Deputy Secretary General, thank you for your leadership and thank you for your important words here today. And thank you to the many activists out here, those of you who are championing this effort on the frontlines. We certainly welcome Victoria Beckham. Thank you for taking this on.And I want to note that my old friend and our leader, Eric Goosby, Dr. Eric Goosby, is here. Happy to see him and all his great work. And I’m happy to see – (applause). I’m happy to see a colleague of mine who I got to serve with for a few years before I came onto this, but delighted to see Senator from Delaware Chris Coons here, his passionate voice in the Senate for this – (applause). And all of you, thank you for – now I’m getting whispered who I have to start – my good friend Michel is saying got to recognize – (laughter) there, there. If I do that, I’m never going to get through this. (Laughter.)

Mr. Deputy Secretary General, three years ago you set a tremendous goal for all of us. You said, “Zero new HIV infections, zero discrimination, and zero AIDS.” And that goal has been set for us to achieve by 2020. In the refusal to allow AIDS to ravage yet another generation, you have showed an even bigger determination than we might have anticipated to meet our global responsibilities. And I want to thank you for the tremendous efforts by setting that target for all of us. And I believe it’s achievable, notwithstanding the difficulties that Jan just mentioned to all of us.

I want to thank President Burkhalter of Switzerland and President Mahama of Ghana and President Zuma of South Africa, and my good old friend Michel Sidibe, the executive director of UNAIDS, for their commitment to helping to write a new chapter in the fight against AIDS.

It’s more than fair to say that the work that we’re doing together here is work that was once just a distant dream. And we are making an AIDS-free generation a closer reality for a lot of folks all around the world.

Now I think about what the word ” AIDS” meant when I became a United States Senator in 1985. Back then it was a death sentence. Back then many people in positions of responsibility – and I knew them, some of them – were not even comfortable saying the word or talking about it in a meeting or being present when it was discussed.

I think about what the word ” AIDS” meant on a global scale back in the 1990s, back when Senator Bill Frist and I first began working together on this issue and when we started to join three words together in a sentence: ” AIDS in Africa.” It meant a looming death sentence for an entire continent, and thank God people of conscience and conviction decided that was unacceptable.

The truth is that in many ways, we’ve ended 1985’s meaning of ” AIDS” as we knew it. It’s not an unspoken word, nor is it an automatic death sentence. And thanks to the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief, which grew out of our initial efforts in the Senate I am proud to say, we are on the road to do the same globally, notwithstanding pockets of greater emergence or pockets of resistance. But the reason we’re on the road is we know what we can achieve. We’ve seen what we’re able to do. We now have to complete the task to end the era of AIDS, period, full stop end the era. (Applause.)

Last year, I was honored to stand with President Obama as he announced that PEPFAR had not only met but exceeded his goal. That’s what I mean about we know we have the capacity: 6.7 million people are now receiving life-saving treatment, and that’s an astounding number, a fourfold increase since the beginning of this Administration, since Barack Obama came into office. And today, more than one million babies have been born HIV-free because of PEPFAR’s support. Now, these are a lot more than just numbers, and I think everybody in this room knows that better than any other people. Every one of these men, women, children has a unique contribution to make, and every one of those babies can now grow up to be a person, healthy, go to school, contribute to the workforce, realize dreams, and maybe even have sons and daughters of their own. Their lives remind us of what we have achieved, but more importantly, they remind us still of the miles we have yet to go in order to achieve the full-fledged AIDS-free generation.

So first, we need to continue to make strategic and creative investments that are based on the latest science and best practices. In a tight budget environment – and everybody faces that – every dollar, yen, and euro counts. And that’s why we need to focus on data, on mutual accountability, transparency for impact, and put our weight behind HIV prevention, treatment, and care interventions that work. We also need to continue to set benchmarks, and I’m very pleased that PEPFAR’s investment supports UNAIDS’s 90-90-90 targets. (Applause.) PEPFAR is laser-focused on achieving ambitious targets in the areas of high HIV prevalence, and the challenge is obviously big and it’s obviously important.

Second, we need to focus on the impact of HIV/AIDS on children, young women, and vulnerable populations. And that’s why the United States announced a new partnership last month between PEPFAR and the Children’s Investment Fund Foundation called Accelerating Children’s HIV/AIDS Treatment. This ambitious partnership will help 300,000 more children living with HIV to get the treatment that they need, and I’m proud to announce today that we are making nearly 500 million in PEPFAR funds available this year to support efforts for children, young women, and vulnerable populations. (Applause.)

Third, we need to double down on our new country health partnerships, which are focused on using data to change people’s lives on the ground. South Africa, Rwanda, Namibia are on the front lines of the transformation from direct aid to providing support for locally run, self-sustaining investments, and we need to back these efforts every step of the way.

Finally, we need to ensure that the post-2015 development agenda reflects the United States’s continued commitment to ending the HIV/AIDS epidemic and creating an AIDS-free generation. I want to emphasize: The United States commitment to fighting HIV/AIDS is undiminished, just as our work is unfinished. And our commitment has only been strengthened by the progress that we’ve made, the lives we’ve saved, and the fact that we’ve learned we know what to do, we just have to do it. That’s a story worth telling and it’s a story that compels all of us to continue.

So I will never forget just a few months ago walking into the Gandhi Memorial Hospital in Addis Ababa. And as I passed the front gate in the back with a group of doctors, nurses, and patients all assembled, I saw this big sign on the wall that read, ” Ethiopia and the United States of America: Investing in a Healthy Future Together.” That sign tells it all, and that sign is replicated all across communities in one place or another where this kind of help is coming to people. We know – we know that achieving an AIDS-free generation will continue to pose an incredible test. But we also know that with our work together, we can pass this test, we can see this fight across the finish line. And I’m convinced with the folks here and this commitment we are going to do just that. Let’s not stop. Let’s get the job done. Thank you. (Applause.)