Remarks for Ambassador Robert F. Godec World AIDS Day National Event

Nairobi City Stadium

Your Excellency,

First Lady Margaret Kenyatta;

Deputy Nairobi Governor,

Hon. Jonathan Mueke;

Other distinguished guests,

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Waheshima,

Mabibi na mabwana,

Hamjambo.

Habari zenu?

Mambo vipi!

Good morning.  It is an honor to be here with you today as we commemorate World AIDS Day 2015.  On this day, I ask you to imagine a world without AIDS.  Imagine the elimination of HIV/AIDS as a public health threat, forever.  Imagine communities across Kenya, Africa, and the world, once ravaged by this epidemic, thriving and prospering anew.  Such a future – a few years ago a distant dream – is now close at hand.  But we must work together; we must seize the opportunity, if we are to reach our goal.

On World AIDS Day in 2000, the great Nelson Mandela said, “HIV/AIDS is the greatest danger we have faced for many, many centuries.  HIV/AIDS is worse than a war.  It is like a world war.  Millions of people are dying from it.”

 I believe we have made progress since Mr. Mandela spoke these words.  But we are at a critical moment in the effort to gain control of the global HIV/AIDS epidemic.  Business as usual will not do.  Our goal is zero new infections, zero deaths, zero discrimination.  And we are not there yet.  We must act now with determination and resolve to reach our goals.  If we don’t, the world could face more than 100 million HIV infections globally by 2030.

Kenya represents one of the global leaders in the fight against HIV/AIDS.  I believe this country is already on the path towards conquering this epidemic, and all of you here today are a part of it.  The United States has been a close partner with Kenya for over 50 years, and in recent times, one of our most important shared goals has been to realize a world free of HIV/AIDS.  Today, on World AIDS day, we celebrate the progress we have made towards this goal, but also reflect on the challenges we still face.

 Treatment for children is at the core of Kenya’s HIV strategy, thanks to advocates such as President Kenyatta and First Lady Margaret Kenyatta, who have championed this cause.  The U.S. President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief, PEPFAR, is implementing Accelerating Children’s HIV/AIDS Treatment Initiative, or ACT, in Kenya as part of the U.S. government’s commitment to children who are living with HIV.  ACT is an ambitious two-year, $200 million initiative to double the total number of children who are receiving life-saving antiretroviral therapy in ten priority African countries, including Kenya.  Kenya will receive $26 million, or KSH 2.6 billion, of these funds.  Under the leadership of the Ministry of Health, we are working to identify children who are HIV positive and link them to treatment.

I am also pleased to announce that we are launching the Determined Resilient Empowered AIDS-free Mentored and Safe initiative, or DREAMS, this morning as part of the U.S. government’s continued commitment to ensuring an AIDS-free future for adolescent girls and young women around the world.  Every year 380,000 adolescent girls and young women are infected with HIV globally – more than 1,000 each and every day.  President Obama highlighted the DREAMS initiative when he visited Kenya in July.  This ambitious partnership between PEPFAR, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, and Girl Effect, will provide nearly half a billion dollars to reduce HIV infections among adolescent girls and young women in ten sub-Saharan countries.  Through DREAMS, Kenya will receive almost KSH 4 billion to provide comprehensive services to adolescent girls and young women.

Through programs such as ACT and DREAMS we are committed to making HIV/AIDS history.  Since 2003, the U.S. government has invested over KSH 300 billion in HIV programs in Kenya.  This investment has provided antiretroviral treatment for 860,297 men, women and children; HIV testing and counseling for more than 11 million pregnant women; voluntary medical male circumcision for 1.1 million men; and support for nearly 900,000 orphans and vulnerable children in Kenya.

At the United Nations earlier this year, President Obama set an even bolder course for PEPFAR by announcing ambitious new HIV prevention and treatment targets for 2016 and 2017.  The president pledged that, by the end of 2017, PEPFAR will support 12.9 million people worldwide with life-saving HIV treatment and provide 13 million male circumcisions to reduce the risk of HIV infection among men.  PEPFAR has also set a goal to dramatically reduce HIV among adolescent girls and young women in the highest-burden geographic areas of ten sub-Saharan African countries, including Kenya.

 The HIV/AIDS epidemic is a responsibility we all share.  It transcends national borders.  It transcends race, religion, tribe, and political affiliation, which all too often divide us.  On World AIDS Day, we should all come together to recommit to ending this global crisis once and for all; to make an AIDS-free generation a reality.  Everyone at risk must be tested.  Every person diagnosed with HIV must have access to treatment.  And we must end the stigma associated with HIV/AIDS.  This is not only a public health issue, but a human rights issue.  Prejudice and discrimination erode the gains we have made in extending medical treatment and health services to the most vulnerable populations, including LGBT people, women, and youth.  Achieving an AIDS-free generation will not be possible without respect and acceptance for all.

Working in partnership, we have come a very long way since the darkest days of this epidemic, but our work is far from done.  Today, on the 27thWorld AIDS Day, I assure you that the U.S. Government and the American people remain committed partners of the Government and people of Kenya.  We will work with you to improve health across this country and, together, to rid the world of the scourge of HIV/AIDS.

In conclusion, I would like to say a few words about her Excellency, Mrs. Margaret Kenyatta.  Her exceptional commitment in relation to women and children’s health has been instrumental in the progress we have made towards achieving an AIDS-free generation.  In recognition of her extraordinary leadership, I would like to ask Her Excellency, Mrs. Margaret Kenyatta, to serve as a Good Will Ambassador of DREAMS.  Your Excellency, I know with you at the helm of this initiative, and with the continued cooperation between our two governments, girls and young women in Kenya will indeed have an opportunity to live longer, healthier and more prosperous lives.

Your Excellency, I hope you will accept.

Pamoja tusonge mbele.

Asanteni sana.