Sixteen years ago, when PEPFAR began, HIV was a death sentence in many parts of the world. Now, we have the historic opportunity to make what once seemed impossible possible: controlling and ultimately ending the HIV/AIDS epidemic, community by community.
The theme for World AIDS Day 2019 is “Communities make a Difference.” This reflects the U.S./Nigeria commitment to ending the HIV/AIDS epidemic and highlights the vital role of communities in controlling and ultimately ending the epidemic. This ensures individuals have access to life-saving HIV prevention and treatment services across all communities.
To achieve epidemic control, PEPFAR is committed to ensure all ages, genders, and at-risk populations in communities know their HIV status, receive prevention and treatment services, and are virally suppressed if they are HIV-positive. This means focusing on client-centered care – meeting patients where they are with what they need.
So how do we do this? PEPFAR uses data to focus its investments on reaching the highest burden populations, many of which are too often being missed with HIV services.
PEPFAR also works closely with the Nigerian government toward achieving epidemic control while promoting the long-term sustainability of their responses to find, link, and maintain patients on life-saving HIV treatment. All while strengthening the capacity of civil society and communities to increase access to services for populations most at risk, such as men who have sex with men, transgender individuals, sex workers, and people who inject drugs.
We recognize that successful and sustainable HIV/AIDS interventions must involve, be informed by, and tailored to those who we serve. PEPFAR’s commitment to reaching all populations and linking them to HIV services remains strong.
Knowing that we cannot end the epidemic without working in partnership with our communities, it brings me great pleasure to partner with the government to launch our U=U campaign – which as you know, stands for Undetectable = Untransmittable.
The idea that someone living with HIV, who is both on treatment and virally suppressed, cannot transmit the virus to a sexual partner is revolutionary in the fight against HIV/AIDS. U=U messaging has the potential to reduce stigma toward people living with HIV, including self-stigma, as well as to increase demand for HIV testing and improve adherence to treatment.
In closing, for the first time in modern history, we have the opportunity to control the HIV epidemic in Nigeria. U=U has proven to change the way we view HIV and HIV-positive individuals. It empowers patients to not only get tested but to take control of their status, with the ultimate goal of maintaining an undetectable viral load. With the great partnership we share with the government of Nigeria, I’m sure we can achieve epidemic control in Nigeria and around the world.