Ambassador Robert F. Godec’s Remarks
U.S. Government World AIDS Day Commemoration
November 30th, 2018
Kibera Community Health Center, Nairobi, Kenya
Dr. Kigen Bartilol, Head of NASCOP,
Honorable Cecilia Ayot, Kibra Member Chief of Assembly,
Dr. Meshack Ndirangu, Director of Amref Health Africa in Kenya,
Distinguished Guests, Ladies and Gentlemen.
Mabibi na mabwana, hamjambo?
It’s a great pleasure to be here with you today. Each year on World AIDS Day we come together to honor the lives of those we’ve lost, acknowledge the distance we’ve come, and collectively re-commit ourselves to the goal of a world free from HIV. This year, we also celebrate the fifteenth anniversary of the U.S. President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief – the organization we all know as PEPFAR. I can’t think of a better way to commemorate this important milestone than to return to where it all began — here at one of the very first PEPFAR sites in Kenya, the Kibera Community Health Center.
Fifteen years ago when PEPFAR was created, an HIV diagnosis was a death sentence in many countries – families and entire communities succumbed to the disease. Faced with this devastation, the United States government responded with an historic commitment to save lives. Today, only 15 years later, death and despair has been replaced with life and hope. Through PEPFAR, the U.S. government has not only saved and improved millions of lives, but also transformed the course of the HIV epidemic.
As we just saw in the video, Kenya represents an impressive success story for PEPFAR. Our investments have saved millions of lives, and also strengthened security and fostered economic opportunity.
When PEPFAR was launched, only 8,000 Kenyans were on HIV treatment. Through partnerships and data-driven investments, PEPFAR now supports more than one million people on lifesaving treatment across the country. PEPFAR also supports over 800,000 orphans, vulnerable children and their caregivers, and has helped more than 830,000 babies at risk of HIV infection – to be born free from HIV.
What made this transformation possible? One word – partnerships – PEPFAR’s partnerships with the Government of Kenya, the private sector, philanthropic organizations, multilateral institutions, universities, civil society, faith-based organizations, people living with HIV, health workers, and many others. These long-standing partnerships have single-handedly moved the HIV/AIDS epidemic from crisis towards control.
I’m very pleased to say that for the first time in modern history, we have the opportunity to control the HIV pandemic, not through vaccine or cure, but we are actually laying the groundwork to eliminate HIV completely. We are closer than ever to ending AIDS.
At its heart, PEPFAR is all about people—not only the millions of men, women and children that we serve, but also the thousands of individuals that drive PEPFAR’s remarkable impact.
The video we viewed today highlighted three members of the PEPFAR family who represent resilience and hope in the face of HIV. We are fortunate to have them here with us today. Yunus, Mercy and Damaris, could you please stand up? Thank you for sharing your stories with us. Your courage is an inspiration to everyone who struggles with the many challenges of HIV.
I would also like to thank those behind the scenes. Their year-round effort supporting the noble cause of an HIV-free Kenya is often painstaking and thankless. These individuals aren’t in the limelight, but they take pride in helping transform their communities, regardless of recognition or accolades. They are our unsung heroes.
Thank you to all of our PEPFAR partners and heroes: To the nurse counseling a couple getting tested; to the community health volunteer caring for orphans and vulnerable children; to the brave men and women who fight for their right to treatment in the face of stigma and discrimination; to the inspiring Kenyans living with HIV who mentor and provide hope to their peers so that they can live positive and healthy lives—you are the heart of PEPFAR’s work. Today we recognize your important place within our collective success.
And finally, a big thank you to my enthusiastic colleagues from the U.S. Embassy who volunteered to serve the Kibera community today and learn more about how their behind-the-scene support goes beyond Embassy walls and into communities.
While today marks a significant milestone, we must all re-commit ourselves to doing our part in achieving a world free of HIV. And we will do it! The United States government will work alongside you – as we’ve done for the past 15 years – to continue our journey together to consign HIV to the history books.
Tusonge mbele pamoja.