The U.S. Department of State, the George W. Bush Institute, the U.S. President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR), Susan G. Komen for the Cure, and the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS) today announced Pink Ribbon Red Ribbon, an innovative partnership to leverage public and private investment in global health to combat cervical and breast cancer -- two of the leading causes of cancer death in women - in sub-Saharan Africa and Latin America.
Pink Ribbon Red Ribbon will expand the availability of vital cervical cancer screening and treatment and breast care education -- especially for women most at risk of getting cervical cancer in developing nations because they are HIV-positive.
The partnership will leverage the platform and resources of PEPFAR -- established under President Bush and a cornerstone of President Obama's Global Health Initiative (GHI) -- and will draw from lessons learned in the significant scale-up of HIV services in recent years.
During the announcement, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton said:
"...One of the most powerful and effective ways of saving lives is by improving women's and particularly mothers' health.
"We have a wealth of data, and we saw personal testimonials in that wonderful video. But if we want to make progress on some of the toughest challenges we face in global health -- fighting HIV, preventing childhood deaths, improving nutrition, stopping malaria, and more -- then investing in women must be at the top of the agenda.
"It starts with the central role that women play in the family and in the community. I'm often struck by how hard women in the developing world work every single day. It's a woman who is responsible for fetching water and fuel. It's a woman who is the majority of the farmers who provide the subsistence, back-breaking labor for growing and harvesting food. It's women who have to figure out how to clothe their children, provide those school fees, and yes, make sure that health is taken care of. It's women who walk with a sick child miles to the nearest medical clinic. And if that woman herself gets sick or dies, then the family support system breaks down, and everyone who relies on her also suffers.
"Studies show too that if a mother dies, the newborn is far more likely to die as well. But if a mother can stay healthy, then the converse is true: her children are likely to be healthy, and they will stay in school longer and they will earn a higher income when they grow up. An analysis published in the Lancet found that half the reduction in child mortality between 1970 and 1990 can be attributed to higher rates of education for women.
"So the conclusion is clear that if we want to make a difference when it comes to investing in health, then we must invest in women. And historically, women's health has been chronically underfunded, so that means that we have the opportunity to tap a resource that we've been missing out on. And it's why in the Global Health Initiative that President Obama launched in 2009 we've placed a very high priority on women's health.
"We're building on the efforts of the Bush Administration and PEPFAR and the Malaria Initiative. We're stepping up our efforts on maternal and child health by increasing the number of trained and equipped caregivers; strengthening obstetric facilities; providing nutrition, antenatal care, vaccines, access to family planning; and investing in innovative technologies.
"And in particular with respect to HIV, we recognize HIV/AIDS has become a woman's disease. In the developing world, our prevention efforts therefore have to focus on women. And our innovations in prevention and treatment have to also give women the tools to protect themselves.
"We're increasing our investments to help pregnant women living with HIV avoid passing the virus on to their unborn children. And we're taking on the related issue of gender-based violence. It is a cause of transmission that gets, I think, far too little attention.
"Women are on the front lines in our efforts to provide greater nutrition to their children. The 1,000 days from pregnancy to birth are critical in making sure a child is healthy. That's why the essential nutrients, the vitamins, the fortified foods to pregnant women and babies in some of the most remote areas of the world will pay off.
"As we emphasize women's health, then we have to make sure that we make it as easy as possible for women to access these services. And I appreciate President Bush mentioning that we've invested -- the American people have invested -- in a terrific system. The PEPFAR clinics are there. They're a reminder that the American people care about the health of the people of Africa and elsewhere.
"But we want to make sure that when a person, particularly a woman, goes to that clinic, she can get other services as well. She might need prenatal care. She might need vaccines for her children. And it used to be very difficult to do that because the way that we had set up our system made it more likely than not that you would go for HIV treatment one place and then you'd have to go somewhere else for prenatal care. That's just not practical in many places. So part of what this new initiative will do is to emphasize the importance of trying to create one-stop shops, so to speak -- clinics that offer a range of services under one roof.
"And so PEPFAR and the State Department are very excited about joining this Pink Ribbon Red Ribbon Partnership. And as we aim at the goal of reducing cervical cancer deaths among women, we hope that we will see results very quickly. As President Bush said, we see results from the President's Initiative on Malaria. We want to see results equally from this effort to reduce deaths from cervical cancer.
"Our partners from both the public and the private sector will help us raise awareness about breast cancer and cervical cancer, will help make screening more available, HPV vaccines more available and affordable, and advocate for effective policies within the countries that we serve."
You can read a transcript of the Secretary's full remarks here.