Remarks by Ambassador James F. Entwistle World AIDS Day Commemoration (November 30, 2015)

Abuja | November 30, 2015

(as prepared for delivery)

Good morning.  I am delighted to be a part of today’s event commemorating the 35th World AIDS Day.

I’d like to begin my remarks by asking you all to imagine if we had everything we need—the tools, science, and resources—to reduce the number of women, men, and children newly infected with HIV by 90 percent.  Imagine the creation of an AIDS-free generation, a generation that eliminates HIV as a public health threat, where no one is left behind.  This, once impossible, future is now within our grasp.  But we must seize the opportunity to reach it.

“The time to act is now.”  That is the theme of this 35th World AIDS Day.  This theme conveys the urgency of the Joint United Nations Program on HIV/AIDS.  The strategy behind the UN program is simple, and involves information, treatment, and suppression of the disease.  Its goal is for 90 percent of all people with HIV to know they are HIV positive, 90 percent of all those infected to receive sustained antiretroviral therapy, and 90 percent of all those on antiretroviral therapy to reach viral suppression.   These actions should lead to the elimination of the HIV/AIDS epidemic once and for all.

The U.S. President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) is the largest commitment by any nation to combat a single disease.  Through PEPFAR, the U.S. government has committed nearly $65 billion to support the HIV/AIDS response globally.  Since 2004, the year PEPFAR began in Nigeria, the program has provided more than $4.2 billion (over 800 billion Naira) to support the Nigerian HIV/AIDS response.

Contrary to some recent media reporting, the United States is not stopping PEPFAR funding to Nigeria.  We do anticipate some reduction in the overall budget.  We will continue to focus our services in areas with the greatest HIV burden and will support the most effective interventions.  Our continued commitment to support the Nigerian government and its people remains strong.  Indeed, as we are discussing with the new Nigerian administration, we think it important that the contribution of your government to our joint health partnership increase.

The lives touched and the people saved offer testimony to PEPFAR’s successes in Nigeria.  Some measures of progress include the nearly 600,000 people currently on HIV treatment.  In the past year, nearly 8.6 million people have received HIV counseling and testing services.  Prevention messages and activities have reached over 300,000 people identified as most at-risk.  Approximately, 55,000 pregnant women have received antiretroviral drugs for the prevention of mother-to-child transmission of HIV.  Also, 750,000 adults and children living with HIV/AIDS and tuberculosis have received care services.  Finally, more than one million children orphaned and made vulnerable by AIDS have received care and support.

Earlier this year, President Obama set a bold course for PEPFAR by announcing new HIV prevention and treatment targets for 2016 and 2017.  By the end of 2017, PEPFAR will support 12.9 million people with life-saving treatment.   PEPFAR also aims to reduce HIV incidence by 40 percent among adolescent girls and young women.

Today, we invite and challenge Nigerian government leaders, scientists, civil society, faith-based organizations, and the private sector to join together in solidarity to bring this unrelenting epidemic to a halt.  We can create an AIDS-free generation where no one is left behind, but we must continue working together to make that happen.

I would also like to take this opportunity to congratulate the university students and other young people across Nigeria who participated in the U.S. Mission’s art contest.  The contest promoted artistic self-expression on HIV/AIDS and serves as another platform to engage with young Nigerians dealing with the immense burden of the HIV/AIDS epidemic.

I especially congratulate the winners of the art contest here with us today.  I invite members of the media to join me in a tour of the gallery shortly after this ceremony concludes.

Achieving our goals to end HIV/AIDS will not be easy.  To reach them, we all must share responsibility and strengthen our efforts.  Working in partnership, we have come a very long way since the worst days of the epidemic, but the work is far from done.  Indeed, the time to act is now.