World AIDS Day is both a day of remembrance and a day of celebration. We must all remember those who have lost their lives to AIDS. It’s in their honor that we work each and every day to provide HIV prevention, treatment and care to millions across the globe.
Yet, it’s also a day to celebrate those whose lives have been improved and saved in Rwanda and throughout the world, thanks to global efforts to fight this devastating disease. On this World AIDS Day, it is important to remember that we have a shared responsibility to build on the success achieved to date by making smart investments that will ultimately save more lives.
And there is much success to build on. In close partnership with the Government of Rwanda, the United States, through President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR), has directly supported life-saving antiretroviral treatment for 53,764 men, women and children as of September 2010. PEPFAR has directly supported 183,651 people in Rwanda with care and support programs, including 67,833 orphans and vulnerable children.
PEPFAR’s support for mother-to-child transmission programs has resulted in HIV-positive mothers giving birth to approximately 792 HIV-negative babies.
U.S. support continues to grow, despite difficult economic times. Building on the success of PEPFAR and other global health programs, President Barack Obama has also put forward an ambitious Global Health Initiative, which will support coordinated programs aimed at reducing lives lost from HIV/AIDS and other health challenges. And through U.S. investments in the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, many more people will benefit from prevention, care and treatment.
Working with Rwanda, we are also becoming smarter about how we’re making investments with the goal of saving more lives. Experience in Rwanda and elsewhere has taught us how to use every dollar invested in battling HIV/AIDS more effectively and efficiently.
This means every dollar is going a little further, allowing us to do more to combat HIV/AIDS, and address issues across the global health spectrum. It also means that we can now measure our success not just in dollars invested, but in the ultimate measure of success – lives improved and saved.
We are using our money wisely for greater impact. For example, one of the biggest hurdles to providing HIV treatment used to be the high price of antiretroviral drugs.
By 2008, lower-priced generic antiretroviral drugs accounted for almost 90% of the 22 million packs purchased globally under PEPFAR, increasing from 14.8% in 2005. This resulted in an estimated cumulative savings of $323 million. Moreover, PEPFAR has become more efficient in shipping needed medicines in a timely fashion by using water and land delivery instead of air freight, reducing costs by as much as 90%.
On this World AIDS Day, we honor the lives lost and celebrate the lives saved, but we cannot rest. Working together, we must remain dedicated to building on success by making smart investments to save even more lives.
The author is the American ambassador to Rwanda