Delivered at Avani Lesotho Hotel
Please allow me to pay my respects to:
His Majesty King Letsie III
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
Ladies and Gentlemen
I want first to acknowledge and thank our hosts for today’s launch: Vodafone Foundation and their many partners, who have come together to demonstrate how we, collectively, can win the fight against HIV/AIDS.
The United States is proud to be a close and dedicated partner in the fight against the HIV epidemic in Lesotho. Mr. Prime Minister, you know that we have been by your side for nearly a decade. We will continue to commit substantial resources, and to work hand in hand with government, other external partners, and civil society in this critical struggle.
The United States government, with the generous support of the American people, has been a major contributor to the HIV/AIDS response in Lesotho, through both multilateral and bilateral channels. Multilaterally, the U.S. government has committed more than $11 billion to the Global Fund, including more than $1.3 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. That includes $250 million in Lesotho, $70 million this year alone.
Today, we have come together to celebrate an innovative new approach to the fight against HIV and AIDS. It’s an innovation both in terms of a funding model…a public private partnership…and also because of the way this partnership uses mobile technology to find and refer to care as many Basotho children as possible. The partnership is providing outreach clinics and mobilizing communities to promote and improve children’s health.
We are beginning to see glimmers of hope now, after so many years of hard work and bad news. Despite the burden of HIV, a severe shortage of health workers, and resource limitations, Lesotho has made some progress against the HIV epidemic. In 2006, six percent of HIV-positive adults and children were on lifesaving treatment. A decade later, that figure is now 40 percent! In addition, Lesotho is moving to implement a test and start policy that will allow all HIV positive Basotho to access life-saving treatment as soon as they are diagnosed. And recent data show a 35% decline in infant mortality in five years. In 2009, there were 91 deaths per 1,000 live births; that number has declined to 59 deaths per 1,000 live births today. This impressive decline is likely related to expanded efforts to prevent the transmission of HIV from mothers to their children. So we, collectively, are making a difference, but we have a long way to go. The children who are living with HIV and AIDS and those who are vulnerable to contracting it, deserve our very best collective efforts.
The United States is proud to contribute $3 million to this exciting public-private partnership that we are celebrating today. The element of the partnership that we are supporting is an approach called index-patient tracking, which is designed to identify HIV positive children and start them on live-saving treatment as soon as possible. This will be accomplished via door-to-door HIV testing and counseling and provision of outreach services for pregnant women and children.
I’d like to end today with a quote from Elizabeth Taylor, the legendary actress who did so much to spread awareness of HIV prevention and treatment. She once said “It’s bad enough that people are dying of AIDS, but no one should die of ignorance.” That was a powerful statement when she made it and I think it has even more resonance today, when an HIV diagnosis is no longer a death sentence. With that in mind, I want to echo appeals I have heard from prominent figures inside and outside government to every family across Lesotho, from urban areas to the most remote communities. Please make sure your children are tested and get them the treatment they need, as soon as possible, so they can lead normal, fulfilling lives and achieve their full potential.
Khotso, Pula, Nala