About the Author: Ambassador Eric Goosby serves as the U.S. Global AIDS Coordinator, leading all U.S. Government international HIV/AIDS efforts.
World AIDS Day is a day to honor the millions of people who are living with HIV/AIDS, those who have lost their battle to this disease, and the caregivers, families, friends and communities affected by the disease. Today is also a day to rededicate ourselves to the fight against HIV/AIDS, and on World AIDS Day 2009, the United States is recommitting itself to overcoming the obstacles that threaten progress against this pandemic.
Yesterday, I had the privilege of attending a White House World AIDS Day observance with Secretary Hillary Rodham Clinton. Also in attendance were Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius; Valerie Jarrett, Senior Advisor and Assistant to the President for Intergovernmental Affairs and Public Engagement; Jeffrey Crowley, Director of the Office of National AIDS Policy; and many others. At this event, Secretary Clinton affirmed America’s leadership in the fight against global AIDS and emphasized the important role the U.S. President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) plays in the U.S. foreign policy agenda.
As the largest commitment in history by any nation to combat a single disease, PEPFAR has been a critical agent of change in nations around the world. Since its launch in 2003 by President Bush and a bipartisan Congress, the American people have provided more than $25 billion to PEPFAR. And now as a cornerstone of President Barack Obama’s Global Health Initiative, PEPFAR will intensify its focus on supporting countries as they work to defeat their national epidemics, And we will engage our global partners, inviting them to join us in heightened commitment to further the progress we have made in recent years.
As we enter PEPFAR’s second phrase, there is significant momentum to build upon. In Botswana, for instance, U.S. support and the country’s strong government leadership have made universal access to prevention of mother-to-child transmission a reality, much as it is in the developed world. On a global scale, of the estimated four million individuals in low- and middle-income countries with access to antiretroviral treatment, more than half of these men, women and children are supported by the American people. A strong foundation is in place.
Along with expanding HIV treatment, prevention and care services, PEPFAR has also strengthened the health systems in countries in which we work. As we move forward within the Global Health Initiative, PEPFAR will make this a higher priority. We will support efforts to make health systems more responsive to people living with HIV by increasing integration and facilitating their access to health care services, including those for tuberculosis, malaria, maternal and child health, and family planning. And in all we do, we must always ensure that the actions and programs we support address the human rights challenges that drive this disease.
For the past 30 years, I’ve been working with patients living with HIV/AIDS. As a doctor in San Francisco when AIDS first emerged, I’ve been in this fight since the beginning, and I am proud of the progress we have now made together as a global health community. Our efforts have lifted up millions living with and affected by HIV/AIDS. So on World AIDS Day 2009, let’s each take a moment to remember the courageous people we are fighting for as we seek to win the fight against HIV/AIDS.