WORKING together for the past 25 years, the global community has achieved many successes in the fight against HIV/AIDS that deserve recognition on this World AIDS Day.
The World Health Organization estimates that over 4 million individuals in low- and middle- income nations currently have access to antiretroviral treatment.
And thanks to our many partners, the American people through the U.S President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) support more than half of those men, women and children on treatment.
I am particularly proud of the success that we have achieved together here in Rwanda. This is a result of the strong vision and commitment of the Government of Rwanda to fight against the spread of HIV/AIDS and of the dedication of Rwandan health workers to care for those already infected.
Over half of the estimated individuals in need of antiretroviral therapy (ART) are receiving it: There are a total of 73,769 individuals currently on ARTs – including an additional 13,389 people added this year.
We have seen over a 350% increase in ART distribution for those who need it over the past four years and the Government of Rwanda, in partnership with the United States, the Global Fund to Fight HIV, TB and Malaria, and other donors are continuing to work to expand access.
This means that the number of HIV-affected Rwandans receiving treatment has increased dramatically in just a few years; therefore, so has the number of HIV-affected people who are getting the opportunity to lead normal, productive lives.
The United States is committed to continuing our support of achievements like these and the many others that have curbed the spread of HIV in Rwanda.
However, we know that there are a number of obstacles that threaten the success of our future HIV prevention, treatment and care efforts. We cannot succeed in this fight against HIV/AIDS alone, and America is committed to working with our global partners in support of Rwanda’s dynamic leadership in this effort.
Over the next five years, the United States will place a renewed emphasis on partnering with our Rwandan colleagues to further enhance Rwanda’s national HIV/AIDS response. We will continue to work together at all levels as they craft strategies and programs to stop HIV/AIDS.
And America will support the Government of Rwanda as it engages international partners, civil society, the private sector and non-governmental organizations in this common cause.
The United States, through the PEPFAR program, will continue to work with Rwanda as it strives to ensure universal access to all Rwandan citizens in need.
U.S. President Barack Obama and U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton recently announced the U.S. Global Health Initiative, which will help Rwanda further integrate and expand access to other health care services, such as those that address tuberculosis, malaria, maternal and child health, and family planning with HIV/AIDS programs.
As we do this, we must also ensure that the work we do together addresses the inequalities that drive the spread of HIV.
The U.S. PEPFAR program is the largest commitment in history by any nation to combat a single disease, and the United States is unwavering in our commitment to our partner nations.
On World AIDS Day 2009, we recommit ourselves to furthering our achievements and look forward to continuing the fight with Rwanda.
The author is the United States Ambassador to Rwanda.