Thursday, February 22, 2024
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Reflecting on 35 Years of World AIDS Day: Pledging to remember and commit

Every year on December 1st, we observe World AIDS Day to honor the millions of people worldwide who are affected by HIV/AIDS.  We use this opportunity to reemphasize that, despite significant progress, this illness still claims far too many lives.  The HIV pandemic has devastated countries and communities around the world.  Our task looms large, but our message is simple: “Remember and Commit.” 

During the past 20 years, the United States has transformed the global HIV/AIDS response through the US President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR). The people’s generosity has saved more than 20 million lives to date, prevented millions of HIV infections, and brought the world closer than ever to controlling the HIV pandemic, community by community, country by country. 

Through PEPFAR, the US government has invested nearly USD three billion in combatting the HIV/AIDS crisis in Ethiopia, the largest commitment by any country to Ethiopia’s HIV/AIDS response. 

In Ethiopia, PEPFAR directly supports life-saving antiretroviral treatment (ART) for more than 450,000 men, women, and children.  Over 380,000 orphans, vulnerable children, and their caregivers are enrolled in programming that strengthens child and family social and financial well-being, enhances community structures for child protection, and bolsters the health community workforce throughout Ethiopia. 

Through these efforts, PEPFAR’s HIV/AIDS response works to ensure the disease will no longer be a public health threat by 2030.  

Governments, communities, civil society, advocates, faith-based organizations, and public and private entities must continue to work together with a shared goal of saving lives and combatting the HIV/AIDS pandemic. Ambassador John N. Nkengasong, the US Global AIDS Coordinator and senior bureau official for Global Health Security and Diplomacy, recently emphasized the collaborative efforts required to achieve progress in the HIV/AIDS response.   

Partnership has always been central to the way PEPFAR operates, and the US will continue to support the government in restoring HIV and TB treatment services in conflict-affected areas while remaining focused on maintaining gains, closing the remaining gaps in testing and treatment, and accelerating efforts to end the HIV/AIDS pandemic as a public health threat. 

PEPFAR supports countries and communities in their fight against HIV/AIDS while also leveraging public health, community, and clinical care platforms to address current and future health threats affecting those living with HIV/AIDS.  To achieve this ambitious goal, PEPFAR has established a five-year strategy that focuses on five pillars: health equity, sustainability, public health systems and security, partnership, and science; as well as three enablers: community leadership, innovation, and data. 

Placing equity and sustainability at the forefront, this strategy guides PEPFAR in its mission to save lives and eliminate HIV/AIDS as a public health threat while simultaneously strengthening health systems. 

As we commemorate World AIDS Day, we find ourselves closer than ever before to controlling the epidemic.  The strong partnership between the U.S. government and the Government of Ethiopia is instrumental in reaching this goal.  By forging ahead together, we can envision an AIDS-free generation within our grasp.  Together, we can create a healthier, safer, and brighter future for Ethiopia. 

(Ervin J. Massinga is the US Ambassador to Ethiopia)

Contributed by Ervin J. Massinga (Amb.)

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