U.S. Ambassador to Kenya Robert F. Godec Remarks for the Launch of the Kenya AIDS Indicator Survey 2012 Final Report

Panafric Hotel

Cabinet Secretary for Health, the Honorable James Macharia; Principal Secretary, Professor Fred Segor; Director of Medical Services, Dr. Frances Kimani; Director of Promotive and Preventive Services, Dr. William Maina; and Head of the National AIDS and STI Control Programme, Dr. Martin Sirengo.

Hamjambo!  Habari zenu.  Good morning.

Thank you so much for the invitation to join you here on this important occasion.  I would also like to acknowledge my colleagues from UNAIDS, the World Bank, the Global Fund, and the Japan International Cooperation Agency, among many other important partners here today.

Change is always a challenge.  Decisions that result in significant change, where people’s lives and livelihoods are at stake, must be informed by credible information.  In the world of health, we rely on the knowledge and skill of scientific experts – epidemiologists, laboratory technicians, and statisticians – to help us make the best decisions about policies and programs that improve the lives of our fellow citizens.

The 2012 Kenya AIDS Indicator Survey is a tool for decision-making.  It was designed to provide data the government of Kenya needed to plan for, implement, and monitor its HIV prevention, care, and treatment programs.  It was also conceived as an important contributor to making decisions that will have an impact on men, women, and children affected by HIV.

Indeed, the Survey has already made an important contribution to our lives.  In 2013, the World Health Organization updated its guidelines and recommended that HIV treatment start earlier for adults, children, and pregnant women.  Kenya then had to make important decisions about its own policies.  Data provided by the survey were critical to the decision-making process for revising the HIV treatment guidelines being launched here today, and for expanding the number of persons with HIV eligible to receive antiretroviral treatment.

These changes have an impact on what the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief – PEPFAR – calls combination prevention.  Studies show that early treatment reduces the likelihood that someone living with HIV will transmit the virus to a partner who is not infected.  Opting to continue treatment for pregnant and breastfeeding women will improve these mothers’ health and the well-being of their current and future children.

The decision to revise the HIV treatment guidelines was not taken lightly.  It required change on many levels: at the national and county level of government, at all the health facilities, and among the various partners who have worked on HIV programs for many years now.  With a larger number of persons eligible for treatment, it has an important impact on future funding and program planning.  I know that the government of Kenya is up to the challenge and will succeed in implementing the change.  I am impressed with the great progress that has been made in Kenya in recent years to strengthen health systems, and combat the HIV epidemic.  The number of new infections is down; mother-to-child transmission has been reduced dramatically.  Nearly 700,000 people are on treatment and, as a result, are able to live normal, productive lives.  We commend Kenya for the important progress it has made and are pleased that the United States, through PEPFAR, has been part of the success story.

We will spend close to 42 billion Kenyan shillings on HIV/AIDS treatment and prevention this year.  Our program in Kenya remains one of the largest and strongest in the world.  That will not change.  PEPFAR will continue to work very closely with the Kenyan government and other donors to plan and implement robust prevention, care and treatment programs in Kenya.  We will continue to support both the government of Kenya and local non-governmental organizations that are providing essential support to people living with HIV/AIDS.  Our commitment to assisting Kenya to end this epidemic is unchanged.

Again, thank you for the opportunity to congratulate the Kenyan government and our many partners here on the release of KAIS 2012 and the launch of Kenya’s revised HIV treatment guidelines.  The United States has had a close partnership with Kenya for over 50 years.  It has been an honor and a privilege to collaborate with so many dedicated partners to improve the lives of the Kenyan people.  Now and in the future, we will continue to support Kenya in building strong health systems and in achieving its health goals.

Thank you.  Asenteni sana.