Remarks by U.S. Ambassador Rebecca E. Gonzales at the 2021 National World AIDS Day Commemoration Event 

Manthabiseng Convention Center, Maseru, Lesotho, December 1, 2021: 

Lumelang bo-‘M’e le bo-Ntate, 

Allow me to begin by paying my respects to

His Majesty King Letsie III,

Her Majesty Queen ‘Masenate Mohato Seeiso,

The Right Honorable the Prime Minister Dr. Moeketsi Majoro, 

Honorable President of the Senate,

Honorable Speaker of the National Assembly,

His Lordship the Chief Justice,

Honorable Deputy Prime Minister,

Honorable Members of His Majesty’s Cabinet,

His Lordship the President of the Court of Appeal,

Honorable Leader of the Opposition in Parliament,

Your Excellencies Heads of Diplomatic Corps and International Organizations,

Honorable members of the Senate and Principal Chiefs,

Honorable members of the National Assembly,

Senior Government officials,

Civil Society Organizations and PEPFAR Lesotho Implementing Partners,

Members of the Press,

Ladies and Gentlemen

Good morning, 

I am delighted to join His Majesty King Letsie III once again to participate in the Kingdom of Lesotho’s national commemoration of World AIDS Day.  The United States government’s theme for World AIDS Day 2021 is “Ending the HIV Epidemic: Equitable Access, Everyone’s Voice.”  This reflects our strong bipartisan commitment to ending the HIV/AIDS epidemic globally.  It further highlights PEPFAR Lesotho’s ongoing efforts to assist the Mountain Kingdom in achieving sustained HIV epidemic control by supporting equitable health services and solutions, enduring national health system capabilities, and developing lasting collaborations with our health and community partners.  It also conveys PEPFAR Lesotho’s deep commitment to ensuring that diverse voices are heard and valued in Lesotho’s national HIV response.

Your Majesty, we stood together last year to celebrate Lesotho’s incredible progress in exceeding the UNAIDS 90-90-90 targets by achieving 90-97-92, as demonstrated by the LePHIA 2020 survey.  This year, we are on the cusp of epidemic control as Lesotho remains on track to achieve the UNAIDS 95-95-95 targets and ultimately end HIV/AIDS as a national health threat.  Now, more than ever, Lesotho must adopt people-centered integrated approaches that support the achievement of the next set of HIV targets.  These new targets also include the addition of a subset of 10–10–10 targets for removing barriers to create an enabling environment free of HIV-related stigma and discrimination.  While there is still more work to do, there is also much to celebrate.  We must be reminded of the tremendous progress we have made together in reversing the impact of the HIV/AIDS epidemic in Lesotho — even in the face of a global pandemic and a period of incredible strain on the country’s health systems.  Your Majesty, please allow me to thank you, again, for your steadfast and enduring partnership with the United States over these many years. 

We also want to thank Her Majesty Queen ‘Masenate for being our Champion for the last two LePHIA Surveys and all the support that she continues to give us. 

The Right Honorable the Prime Minister Dr. Moeketsi Majoro, thank you for supporting the efforts of our global HIV/AIDS community.  Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, we have continued to support the Lesotho government in its efforts to save and improve lives through swift and decisive action driven by data, agility, and innovation.  We have worked with you as well as other stakeholders on two primary goals: Protecting and advancing global HIV gains, including for the most vulnerable and marginalized, and supporting the global COVID-19 response by leveraging the robust public health and clinical platforms in place after more than a decade of PEPFAR investments across Lesotho.  Prime Minister Majoro, your government’s resilience in deploying Lesotho’s response to COVID-19 while also maintaining the tremendous gains made in controlling the HIV/AIDS epidemic would not have been possible without your leadership and support. Thank you.

Allow me to also offer my sincere gratitude to the Minister of Health, Honorable Semano Sekatle.  The government’s tremendous work, through the Ministry of Health and HIV/AIDS care and treatment partners, have been the driving force in controlling the HIV/AIDS epidemic in Lesotho.  Dear Minister, your daily efforts, in partnership with the U.S. Embassy and all our partners, have made all the difference and have saved countless lives.

Under the National AIDS Commission’s theme for this year’s commemoration, “End Inequalities. End AIDS. End Pandemics,” PEPFAR supports partner countries and communities to ensure that people of all ages, genders, and population groups have access to life-saving HIV/AIDS prevention and treatment services.  Equally important, we support the national policies, systems, and capabilities needed to continue to deliver effective and sustainable health care, even in times of great public health adversity, as we’ve experienced during this pandemic.  Looking forward, the United States government is deeply committed to helping bridge the health inequality gap that has only been exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic. We cannot achieve our goal to end HIV/AIDS without addressing the structural barriers that continue to make people vulnerable.  Protecting human, sexual, and reproductive rights is critically important in achieving the UN’s Sustainable Development health goals.  The United States government will continue to partner with the government of Lesotho, development partners, private sector, and civil society to support enabling environments and erase barriers to quality HIV service access.  This includes the stigma, harmful socio-cultural beliefs and practices, and discriminatory legislation that further marginalizes individuals – including the LGBTQI+ community and other vulnerable populations – and threatens the rights and dignity of all.  The threats to controlling the global HIV pandemic are real, and Lesotho’s progress can be readily reversed without focused, sustained, and equitable action.  

As U.S. Ambassador, I am proud to note that with nearly two decades of bipartisan support across presidential administrations and from the United States Congress, we have invested more than $85 billion (approximately 1.3 trillion Maloti) in the global AIDS response through PEPFAR and as the leading donor to the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis, and Malaria. This is the largest commitment ever made by one country to address a single disease.  Through PEPFAR, we have saved more than 20 million lives, prevented millions of HIV infections, and supported many countries to reach epidemic control of HIV/AIDS.  In the Mountain Kingdom, PEPFAR funding totals nearly $630 million (approximately 10.5 billion Maloti) and supports our work across Lesotho’s ten districts.

Across this nation, PEPFAR-supported public health, clinical care, and laboratory platforms have been – and remain – vital in the ongoing fight against COVID-19.   Health management information systems, created with PEPFAR assistance for Lesotho’s HIV programs, have assisted in collecting and using data on COVID-19 cases.  Healthcare supply chains forged with PEPFAR financial and technical resources have delivered COVID-19 test kits, personal protective equipment, laboratory reagents, and other essential commodities.  PEPFAR-trained healthcare workers have implemented COVID-19 testing and continue to support Lesotho’s national COVID-19 vaccine readiness and administration.  Through these actions, the government ensured the continuity of life-saving treatment for people living with HIV/AIDS and demonstrated great agility in adapting service delivery and realigning available HIV/AIDS resources to support the country’s efforts to control the COVID-19 pandemic locally.  

We are at a crossroads in the global AIDS response, and the choices we make now will have critical implications for years to come.  After decades of progress, our work is not yet finished.  If we falter, thousands more people will be infected with HIV, and thousands more now living with HIV will die of AIDS.  But if, together, we confront the challenges before us with conviction and compassion, we can pave the path to end the HIV epidemic everywhere and secure a better future for everyone.  Looking beyond LePHIA 2020, we must work to bolster the individual and community-level actions that will support ongoing national efforts and continue to drive our success in controlling the HIV/AIDS epidemic in the Kingdom of Lesotho.  Supporting proven and credible scientific discoveries in the fight against HIV, such as U=U, will ensure we maintain the many years of progress and lifesaving health services PEPFAR Lesotho and our health implementing partners have helped the government put in place to change the HIV narrative in Lesotho.

To our government and health partners, Kea Leboha! Your daily efforts to provide resources and support the proven activities that continue to push this Kingdom toward epidemic control are deeply appreciated.  

Finally, allow me to close by thanking the people of Lesotho for their tremendous courage and resilience.  I want to reaffirm that the United States of America stands alongside you today and always as your most resolute partner.  Lets’oele le beta poho! United We Stand!

Khotso! Pula! Nala!