Country ownership is critical for achieving an AIDS-free generation and ensuring a sustainable HIV/AIDS response. When partner countries assume the primary leadership and coordination role in their national response, and when all stakeholders share in the responsibility of supporting these efforts, extraordinary progress is possible.
That’s why I was so proud to join Secretary Kerry in a high-level meeting that he hosted with top African and global health leaders on the margins of the United Nations General Assembly in New York last week. During the meeting, the Secretary reaffirmed the U.S. government’s commitment to assist countries in realizing the promise of an AIDS-free generation and reaching their broader health goals through the U.S. President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) and the Global Fund to Fight, AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria (Global Fund). As the Secretary stated: “A decade ago, PEPFAR created the world’s largest and the most successful foreign assistance program ever. And now, a disease that at one time seemed to be unstoppable is actually in retreat.”
To further this momentum, the Secretary announced the establishment of PEPFAR Country Health Partnerships. Building on the success of PEPFAR’s 22 Partnership Frameworks, PEPFAR Country Health Partnerships will advance the principle of country ownership -– in which President Obama, Secretary Kerry, and I believe so strongly -– by further empowering countries as they work to improve the health of their citizens and achieve an AIDS-free generation at home.
PEPFAR Country Health Partnerships will involve an intensified commitment to shared responsibility and accountability, budget transparency, joint decision-making, and strategic investments based on improved data collection and analysis -– all of which will improve our collective ability to save lives and support sustainability. These partnerships represent the next step in a natural evolution that PEPFAR has undertaken in recent years to move from an emergency program to an enduring initiative.
PEPFAR will initially formalize Country Health Partnerships with South Africa, Namibia, and Rwanda –- three countries that have shown exceptional leadership in assuming greater ownership of their HIV/AIDS responses and caring for their people in the face of what were once seemingly insurmountable odds. Over the next few years, we will expand these to other countries, adapting them so we are responsive to local needs.
A strong Global Fund is absolutely critical to help advance these efforts. Since its inception in 2002, the Global Fund has been a vital partner in supporting country-owned responses to address AIDS, tuberculosis, and malaria. That’s why the Secretary also announced that the U.S. will host the Global Fund’s Fourth Replenishment Conference in early December. Convened every three years, this Conference is the Global Fund’s principal opportunity to secure funding for the programs it supports in countries.
The U.S. is the Global Fund’s largest donor, and in Fiscal Year 2014, President Obama reaffirmed this commitment by requesting $1.65 billion for the Global Fund -– easily the largest commitment made by any country. The U.S. is challenging other donors to follow its lead and step up their contributions to the Global Fund. In recent weeks, the United Kingdom, Denmark, Norway, and Sweden have increased their commitments, and earlier this year Germany and France pledged to extend their current level of commitment through the Replenishment period. This news is greatly encouraging, and a sign of strong donor confidence in a reformed Global Fund. But it will take all of us doing our part at this critical moment to make the Replenishment Conference a success.
In echoing Secretary Kerry, I have never been more optimistic than I am today. One of the main reasons is that so many partner countries are demonstrating exceptional leadership and ownership in their national AIDS responses. PEPFAR Country Health Partnership will reinforce and advance their progress by putting more information, tools, and decision-making in the hands of countries that have seized the reins in this way. And a strong Global Fund will help to ensure the resources needed to help support this continued progress are available for countries to access.
For those of us who have spent the majority of our professional lives fighting AIDS -– both in the U.S. and around the globe -– we are at an extraordinary moment. Never before have we had so much momentum, such clear science to guide our way, and so many partners from various sectors driving in the same direction. By expanding access to lifesaving HIV services, sharing greater decision-making with countries, and ensuring a strong Global Fund, we can make an AIDS-free generation a reality. Thanks to Secretary Kerry’s strong leadership, we are one step closer to getting there.