Opening Statement From Ambassador Deborah L. Birx, M.D.,
at the UNAIDS 37th Programme Coordinating Board Meeting
October 26, 2015
Thank you to the Chair. And thank you, Michel, for your inspiring words. Your strong leadership and partnership in this work is nothing short of extraordinary.
It is also an honor and a pleasure to join so many other colleagues and friends as we come together at this pivotal moment in the global HIV/AIDS response.
Imagine a world where we have everything we need to decrease the number of new HIV infections by 90 percent—clear science, implementation tools, and shared goals. Imagine a world with 90 percent fewer women, men, and children newly infected by HIV. Imagine the creation of an AIDS-free generation that eliminates HIV as a public health threat. That is the future that UNAIDS has shown us is possible, but we must seize the opportunity now to reach it. As stated by Michel, we have a fragile window of opportunity.
President Obama, Secretary of State John Kerry, and I believe that this is THE moment. The moment for us to focus on and implement programs to control the HIV/AIDS epidemic. Over the last 15 years, we saw remarkable results working together toward achieving the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs).
The MDGs … all that work we put into improving the survival of children under age 5 and preventing mother-to-child transmission of HIV has translated into 30–40 percent more thriving young people. Many of these young people are young women who are at great risk for HIV infection. Overall, we are headed toward more than 100 million total HIV infections globally by 2030 if we do not change our course. President Obama has called for an AIDS-free generation, and we must fast-track toward that goal.
That is why during last month’s Sustainable Development Goals Summit and the United Nations General Assembly President Obama set a bold course by announcing new HIV prevention and treatment targets for the U.S. President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief, or PEPFAR. The President committed that, by the end of 2017, PEPFAR will support 12.9 million people with life-saving treatment—nearly doubling the number of individuals supported on treatment by PEPFAR from 2013 to 2017.
In addition, PEPFAR will provide 13 million male circumcisions for HIV prevention. And we will reduce HIV incidence by 40 percent among adolescent girls and young women within the highest burden geographic areas of 10 sub-Saharan African countries.
The President also announced that PEPFAR is now investing nearly half a billion dollars to support an AIDS-free future for adolescent girls and young women, including by strategically aligning $300 million in prevention investments in support of our DREAMS partnership and related efforts.
Today, we must stand together and demonstrate our collective resolve to meet the challenge before us in the new Global Goals: to end the AIDS epidemic by 2030. Through PEPFAR, the U.S. government has invested $65 billion in our work with countries around the globe to provide life-saving antiretroviral treatment for nearly 8 million men, women, and children; to prevent more than 1 million babies from being born with HIV; and to test and counsel more than 14 million pregnant women last year alone. Together, we have begun to reverse the HIV/AIDS epidemic, but our work is far from done.
The United States strongly supports the UNAIDS 90-90-90 targets. We have made them an integral part of PEPFAR’s efforts to align our resources toward reaching the highest burden geographic areas and populations, and ensuring that no one is left behind. Through PEPFAR, the United States is laser focused on data-driven decision-making, mutual accountability, transparency, and program impact.
Imagine a world where one’s gender, age, or sexual orientation does not determine access to life-saving medicine or HIV prevention services. Imagine the moment in which heads of state, ministers, scientists, civil society, faith-based organizations, and the private sector join together in solidarity to finally bring this unrelenting epidemic to a halt. We believe that moment is now. We believe that this is all possible.
To translate these aspirations into a reality, we all must share responsibility and resolve to strengthen our efforts. It will take all sectors of society pulling together to make it happen. That is why PEPFAR is proud of its close collaboration with partner governments, the Global Fund, the U.N. family, the private sector, civil society, and the faith community to reach this shared goal. In partnership, we must change from business as usual to urgency and rapid adoption of the new WHO guidelines and necessary policy changes to maximize our collective efforts.
This is the ideal time for us to approve the next UNAIDS Strategy. The United States applauds UNAIDS for advancing the Fast-Track strategy to end the HIV/AIDS epidemic by 2030. The 2016–2021 strategy, which we will discuss today, provides us with a critical opportunity to rapidly scale up the HIV/AIDS response and reach the 90-90-90 targets by 2020. Thanks to UNAIDS, we all now know what we must do to achieve epidemic control. With the current resources available for the global HIV/AIDS response, we will only reach the 90-90-90 targets by 2020 if we focus our investments on the populations and in the geographic areas with the highest burdens of disease.
UNAIDS’ leadership has never been more vital. We need UNAIDS to continue boldly promoting the Fast-Track strategy and the 90-90-90 targets to end the HIV/AIDS epidemic by 2030. We have come a long way, but to control the epidemic and, ultimately, achieve an AIDS-free generation, we must sustain and expand our collective gains.
Thank you to the Chair for the opportunity to make these remarks. I look forward to our discussions this week.
Ambassador Deborah L. Birx, M.D., is the U.S. Global AIDS Coordinator and U.S. Special Representative for Global Health Diplomacy.