Remarks by Ambassador Matthew T. Harrington Launch of the National AIDS Commission

Khotsong, bo ‘me le bo ‘ntate

Please allow me to pay my respects to:

His Majesty King Letsie III

And Her Majesty Queen Masenate

The Right Honorable, The Prime Minister

Honorable Speaker of the National Assembly

Honorable President of the Senate

His Lordship the President of the Court of Appeal

Her Ladyship the Chief Justice

Honorable Deputy Prime Minister

Honorable Ministers of the Cabinet

Honorable Members of Parliament

Your Excellencies, Members of the Diplomatic Corps

Members of the Board of the National AIDS Commission

Distinguished Guests

Ladies and Gentlemen

All Protocol Observed

Your Majesty, please allow me to begin by congratulating the people and government of Lesotho for this important step forward in the fight against HIV/AIDS — the re-establishment of Lesotho’s National AIDS Commission.  And I would like to extend a warm congratulations as well to the members of the National AIDS Commission.   Thank you in advance for your commitment to serve in such important roles.

A lean, dynamic and high-performing National AIDS Commission (or NAC) can play an indispensable role in the HIV and AIDS response.  By bringing together ALL stakeholders, we expect the NAC to provide strategic leadership, coordination, transparency and accountability, all of which are essential to making  more progress in the fight against the HIV/AIDS epidemic.  It is our hope that, with effective and inspired leadership, the NAC will maximize impact and eliminate any duplication, by strengthening coordination of government and development partner efforts.   We also hope the NAC will bridge communication and planning gaps among ministries so the government’s response is both comprehensive and cohesive.

All of us involved in the fight against HIV/AIDS are focused like a laser on achieving by 2020 the 90/90/90 Fast Track goals, which is essential to getting the epidemic under control.   With the NAC’s help, we can get there.  In fact, we must get there.   Because if we don’t, if we fall short of those 90/90/90 goals in this five-year window, Lesotho will face an expanding HIV epidemic that will outstrip the capacity of the country and development partners to respond.  Time is now of the essence.

The United States is proud to be a close and dedicated partner in the fight against the HIV epidemic in Lesotho.   We have been by your side for nearly a decade and will continue to commit substantial resources and to work hand in hand with government, other external partners, and civil society in this critical effort.

Overall, contributions from development partners account for more than half of the resources for the national response in Lesotho.  The United States government, with the generous support of the American people, has been a major contributor to the fight against HIV/AIDS, through both multilateral and bilateral channels.  Multilaterally, the U.S. government has committed more than $11 billion to the Global Fund, including $1.35 billion this year alone.  Bilaterally, our support comes through the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR).   Since the outbreak of the epidemic, through PEPFAR, the United States has committed $65 billion globally, including $250 million to Lesotho. This is by far the largest commitment ever by one country to combat a single disease.

At the U.S. Embassy, we are doing all we can, in partnership, to prioritize our investments, so that they have the greatest possible impact.   We are accountable to the American taxpayers for their generosity and must be able to demonstrate that their money is being well-spent and making a real difference.  The NAC has a similar role to play, I believe, in holding all of us, the government of Lesotho and its partners, to clear identifiable achievements so that we can start measuring our progress in months rather than years.

Today we celebrate an important stride in Lesotho’s fight against HIV.  Your Majesty, please allow me to take a moment to acknowledge the leadership you and your government have demonstrated in steering Lesotho to this point.  Your Majesty, you and the Queen have led the way by speaking out about HIV, including when you dedicated a significant portion of your Speech from the Throne to this challenge.  The Right Honorable The Prime Minister has spoken forcefully and frequently about the need to confront this epidemic head-on and the First Lady speaks eloquently about the need to support children and adolescent girls infected and affected by this scourge.  And, today, I want to acknowledge the Deputy Prime Minister for overseeing efforts by all key stakeholders to design a new National AIDS Commission that is more effective and has more impact than the body it replaced.  Finally, I want to recognize the Honorable Minister of Health Dr. Monyamane for his energy, vision, and partnership.

If the NAC is effective, the government’s investment in establishing this commission will be returned many times over – not only in funds spent and targets met, but in lives saved.  This is an investment in the health of the Basotho people, which I hope will pay dividends for years to come.  Much work remains to be done, of course, but I am optimistic that formation of a dynamic NAC will help put Lesotho on the right path to ending this epidemic.

Thank you for the opportunity to speak today and, again, congratulations.