From a U.S. Department of State news release
Remarks: Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton to the UNAIDS Shared Responsibility Event
United Nations – New York, New York
SECRETARY CLINTON: Thank you. Thank you very much. Michel, thank you, and thank you for your years of leadership. President Yayi, thank you. Everywhere I go at the UN this week where there’s an important issue being discussed, the President is here on behalf of Benin and on behalf of the AU – (applause) – and we thank you so much, Mr. President. And thank you, Chairman Ping. Thank you for the work that you have done in raising the visibility and the importance of health-related issues at the African Union.
And good morning to all of you excellencies and ladies and gentlemen. It is such a pleasure for me to be here at this event to demonstrate very visibly America’s commitment to shared responsibility as we all work together toward a historic goal: creating an AIDS-free generation. It is an ambitious goal that we have set, but I know we can reach it. In part, that’s because of the commitment of every one of you and the many others you represent here today. I also know because of the investments that the United States and our partners have been making for decades to understand, prevent, and treat this disease.
But there’s another reason we can foresee an AIDS-free generation, and that is because nations are stepping up to their own responsibilities to care for their own people. Because ultimately, if we are going to win the fight against AIDS, the societies that are the hardest hit will have to lead the way. That’s why the United States, under the leadership of Dr. Eric Goosby, who is the head of our PEPFAR program and a long time physician who treated some of the very first AIDS patients in San Francisco, to an advocate and manager and champion of what we all can do together – he and I have worked closely together in the Obama Administration to make country ownership a hallmark of PEPFAR and other health programs.
But let me be very clear: Country ownership is not code for abandoning our partners. We are continuing our support, but we are reshaping our programs in ways that make them more sustainable. We want to help our partners, all of you, help set priorities and get the capacity to manage resources, develop your own plans, implement them, and eventually fund them as well. Because in the end, there must be commitment from communities and from governments across the world.
I’m often asked by those who I serve with in the Obama Administration as well as colleagues in Congress, “Tell me, are our partners really taking ownership of the fight against AIDS?” More and more I can say without hesitation the answer to that question is yes.
I can tell people about Namibia, which now provides half of the financing for its fight against HIV/AIDS. (Applause.) Dozens of doctors and nurses who used to be supported by PEPFAR or the Global Fund are now paid by and overseen by the Namibian Government. Soon many pharmacists and nurses will make this same transition, and I thank Namibia for its leadership.
I can also tell you about South Africa, where the government now accounts for about three quarters of all HIV/AIDS spending in the country. Under the new Partnership Framework that I signed when I was in Cape Town with the Health Minister of the Zuma Administration, South Africa will pay for nearly 90 percent of its HIV/AIDS response by 2017. So let me thank President Zuma and South Africa for their commitment and leadership.
Or I can tell you about Rwanda, which has taken over the management of treatment programs at 70 medical facilities, serving over 30,000 HIV-positive patients. And Rwanda’s increased ownership and capacity then helps to free up our resources to work with Rwanda to train local healthcare workers. That is a priority that Rwanda identified, and it’s one that we are very proud to help Rwanda meet.
So Namibia, South Africa, Rwanda; they are not alone. I could cite many more examples, including many of the countries represented here. But we know that change can be difficult, and some of our practices and habits go back decades. And so often in life it is easier to keep doing the same things the same old way. So when we talk about holding each other accountable, we are really agreeing to help each other overcome inertia, to make hard choices, to do the tough work of finding new ways to work together. And that, to me, is the message that I hope you will take with you, because we have to be more innovative, creative, and smart about the resources we have and how they can best be deployed.
So to that end, the United States is pilot-testing a scorecard that will allow us and our partners to assess our joint programs and progress in building sustainable, country-owned health programs, including our efforts to fight HIV/AIDS. And I know that the members of the AU, Dr. Ping, are undertaking your own efforts along similar lines. That is a great step forward if we are serious about shared responsibility, and we should work together to learn from each other so our efforts are complementary.
So the steps that you are discussing here today represent measurable progress, but to deliver on that promise, the promise of this moment, we have to maintain the progress and build on it. If every nation devastated by HIV follows the example of many of the leaders in this room and steps up to shared responsibility, we won’t just keep up our momentum; we will accelerate our progress and move even faster toward the day when we can announce the birth of an AIDS-free generation.
Thank you all very much. (Applause.)
Photo credit: Ernie Branson