Every year on December 1, we commemorate World AIDS Day. It is a day to reflect on lives lost, and lives forever changed, as a result of HIV and AIDS. It is also an opportunity to pay tribute to more than 34 million people living with HIV worldwide. Today, we celebrate those lives saved and improved, and recommit to the fight against HIV and AIDS in Rwanda.
Significant strides have been made in Rwanda and throughout the world. In Rwanda, the United States, through the U.S. President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR), directly supports life-saving antiretroviral treatment for 61,900 men, women and children. PEPFAR supports 225,600 Rwandans with care and support programs, including 73,500 orphans and vulnerable children. PEPFAR’s efforts to prevent mother-to-child transmission have allowed nearly 4,700 babies of HIV-positive mothers to be born HIV-free.
On this World AIDS Day, we emphasize science as the way forward. Recent scientific breakthroughs have altered our outlook on the future of AIDS. Of particular importance was a study showing that antiretroviral treatment reduces the likelihood of transmission of HIV to an uninfected partner by a remarkable 96%. For the first time, with this and other tools, we have a potential path to eliminate this disease globally. By using our new knowledge, we can implement more effective programs to provide HIV prevention, treatment, and care to millions of people worldwide, and in communities throughout Rwanda.
Working with Rwanda, we are embracing smart investments to save more lives. Treatment – both to save the lives of those infected, and to prevent infection of others – is a key evidence-based intervention, along with prevention of mother-to-child transmission, voluntary medical male circumcision, HIV testing, behavior change with high-risk groups, and other interventions. In all we do, we are focusing on using our resources as effectively and efficiently as possible to maximize the human impact of our investments and save more lives.
U.S. President Barack Obama’s Global Health Initiative is using health systems built with PEPFAR assistance to address public health challenges in a more integrated, comprehensive, and sustainable way. For example, PEPFAR has committed to help the Ministry of Health scale-up the SGBV One-Stop Center model in every district. This multi-disciplinary model provides victims with immediate medical, psycho-social, police and legal assistance all in one place. The integrated and co-located services reduce the risk of re-traumatization of victims through excessive interviewing, increase access to essential care and improve the quality of evidence collected. This is an excellent example of PEPFAR’s support for Rwanda’s vulnerable populations.
Despite challenging economic times, the United States remains committed to a leadership role in the global AIDS response. Meeting the challenge of HIV and AIDS requires commitment from all parties – including the governments of affected countries, donor governments, civil society, faith-based organizations, the private sector, and families.
Today, we recognize how far we have come in turning the tide against HIV, while acknowledging the lengths we still must travel. On this World AIDS Day, the United States stands together with Rwanda in partnership and friendship. With science as the roadmap, let us renew our efforts to reach the goal of an AIDS-free generation.