Secretary Tillerson Addresses Global Health Challenges at Grand Challenges Annual Meeting

4 minutes read time
Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, wearing a dark suit, stands behind a podium with an image that says "Global Challenges Annual Meeting 2017"
U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson Speaks at the Grand Challenges Annual Meeting 2017.

Secretary Tillerson Addresses Global Health Challenges at Grand Challenges Annual Meeting

U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson gave keynote remarks at the Grand Challenges Annual Meeting on October 4, 2017 in Washington, DC. Highlighting the United States’ commitment to be a leader in global health and development, Secretary Tillerson outlined some of the U.S. programs that demonstrate this commitment.

On the President’s Emergency Fund for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR)

Secretary Tillerson called the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) “a sterling example” of a long-term solution to a significant global health challenge. “When PEPFAR began,” Secretary Tillerson said, “the prevalence of AIDS in Africa seemed an insurmountable problem. At the time, only 50,000 people in Sub-Saharan Africa were receiving HIV treatment. In many countries, an HIV diagnosis was a death sentence. In the hardest part of – hardest hit regions of Africa, infant mortality had doubled, child mortality had tripled, and life expectancy had dropped by 20 years. More than 14 million children had lost one or both of their parents to AIDS.”

“Now, 14 years after PEPFAR’s creation, we have not only saved millions of lives, but we’re getting ever closer to ending this pandemic by supporting HIV treatment and prevention services using data and analytics to improve performance, find efficiencies, and increase the impact.” 

– Secretary of State Rex Tillerson

Secretary Tillerson also highlighted the next steps for PEPFAR through the Trump administration’s recently unveiled Strategy for Accelerating HIV/AIDS Epidemic Control. “Through this strategy,” Secretary Tillerson said, “PEPFAR will invest its resources to decrease the number of new HIV infections through data-driven programming and a focus on the highest-burden populations and locations.” 

On the Global Health Security Agenda

Expanding to address other health pandemics such as malaria and other infectious disease threats, Secretary Tillerson highlighted the United States’ role in the Global Health Security Agenda (GHSA), calling it “one of the most vital initiatives for building global capacity to prevent, detect, and respond to infectious disease threats.”

“Under GHSA,” Secretary Tillerson said, “the United States continues to assist 31 countries and the Caribbean Community to strengthen global health security, including through $1 billion in investments to strengthen global health security in 17 specific at-risk countries. These investments have yielded outstanding results.”

Secretary Tillerson added, “While we’ve made tremendous progress since GHSA was launched in 2014, considerable work remains. That is why the United States advocates extending the Global Health Security Agenda until the year 2024.”

“The global health security landscape has changed, but the United States commitment to working in multi-sectoral partnerships to counter infectious diseases through the Global Health Security Agenda will remain constant.”

– Secretary of State Rex Tillerson

On United States’ Approach to Development

Using PEPFAR and GHSA as examples, Secretary Tillerson expanded on the United States’ approach to international development. First, Secretary Tillerson said, “our approach to development must continually evolve to meet the changing global landscape.”

Second, he continued, “we must view foreign aid as a means to an end, not an end unto itself.” Adding, “our goal for U.S. development assistance is that it will serve as a bridge to the day that recipients can rise economically and achieve sustainable prosperity for themselves.”

“Finally,” Secretary Tillerson concluded, “accountability is a necessary complement to generosity.” “We must continue to be good stewards of our finite resources and work with reliable and transparent public, private, and non-profit partners.” 

“The United States and its partners have and will continue to make smart and targeted investments that put countries on the way to success. The road to progress will be uneven, and the emergence of global development challenges will continue to present themselves. But I know that when we put our shoulder to the wheel day in and day out, as all of you in this room do – every day you get up with your mind on the mission – we remain open to innovative ideas, we embrace accountability in what we’re doing, we can and will be successful. And most importantly, we’re going to do a lot of good for a lot of people.”

–Secretary of State Rex Tillerson

Editor's Note: This entry also appears in the U.S. Department of State's publication on Medium.com.