Remarks by Ambassador Rebecca Gonzales: HIV Situation Room Launch – May 8, 2018

Good morning.

Please allow me to begin today by first paying my respects to:

His Majesty King Letsie III

The Honorable Acting Prime Minister

The President of the Senate

The Speaker of the National Assembly

Her Ladyship the Chief Justice

Honorable Members of his Majesty’s Cabinet

Their Excellencies Heads of Diplomatic Missions & International Organizations

Senior Government Officials

Distinguished Guests

Ladies and Gentlemen

I am honored to be part of today’s launch of the UNAIDS HIV and Health Situation Room, as we all join hands and intensify efforts to control the burden of HIV/AIDS in Lesotho. It is a privilege to welcome Michel Sidibé and the distinguished representatives from UNAIDS. The United States places great value on collaboration and engagement with UNAIDS and other multilateral institutions to maximize our resources and impact in response to the global HIV/AIDS pandemic.

The United States is the largest contributor to the budget of UNAIDS, and contributed nearly $68 million in 2016. The long-standing collaboration between UNAIDS, the U.S President’s Emergency plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) and the Global Fund helps ensure the goals of saving lives, achieving epidemic control, enhancing health security, and increasing global burden-sharing. As the U.S. Ambassador to Lesotho, I am particularly proud of the strong relationship between our Embassy’s PEPFAR team and the UNAIDS team in this country.

The United States, through PEPFAR has from 2004 to 2017 committed more than $70 billion worldwide and over $384 million to the bilateral HIV response in Lesotho. That amounts to more than 4 billion maloti to date. The current PEPFAR program remains committed to scaling up Lesotho’s antiretroviral treatment coverage to reach 95% nationally, expanding more efficient and effective testing strategies and treatment modalities, especially for adolescents and men, and commencing self-testing for HIV.

We are proud of the work that PEPFAR has funded to improve data collection that helps us understand critical information about how the epidemic affects people across the country and delivery of health services. Today at this launch we are talking about the importance of data, as the UNAIDS Situation Room builds on the strong DHIS II system that PEPFAR supported in Lesotho.

Yesterday, I joined Mr. Sidibé at Queen Elizabeth II Hospital in Maseru to see the amazing work being done at the Adolescent Corners and Men’s Clinic. These innovative sites are helping to reach young people and men, two populations who are lagging behind in knowledge of HIV status and enrollment on treatment. I am so excited that the preliminary data show that sites like this are helping to change that narrative. Thank you so much to the Ministry of Health for your collaboration on these important and innovative sites.

I also recently had the pleasure of visiting Mafeteng Hospital with a prominent American activist and Founder of the Black AIDS Institute, Mr. Phil Wilson. Together we saw the incredible work being done by staff and health workers there to ensure effective and efficient delivery of HIV related services. As one of the many facilities to which we contributed through the first MCC compact, the United States is deeply proud of our investment in the health infrastructure of this country. We call on all our partners to ensure that these investments are maintained and monitored, in order to function at optimal levels and ensure all individuals receive the care they need. The funds contributed through PEPFAR come from the American taxpayer, and therefore, it is imperative that we hold ourselves to the highest standards of accountability, transparency, and service delivery.

Again, my thanks to all of our partners in the fight against HIV/AIDS here in Lesotho and around the world.

Khotso, Pula, Nala!