The New Times (Kigali)

30 November 2012

Rwanda: Working Together for an Aids-Free Generation

analysis

Each year on December 1, we commemorate World AIDS Day. It is a day to reflect on the lives lost, and forever changed, as a result of the HIV and AIDS pandemic, as well as an opportunity to pay tribute to the 34 million people living with HIV worldwide. Today, we celebrate those lives saved and improved in Rwanda and recommit ourselves to the fight against HIV and AIDS.

Bringing an end to HIV and AIDS is a shared responsibility. Here in Rwanda, all of us must continue to work together to increase our efforts in the response, and everyone has a role to play-the private sector, civil society, and indivOver the last 30 years, tremendous progress has been achieved through research and innovation in science-progress which has made the prevention and treatment of HIV and AIDS more effective, accessible, and affordable for communities around the world.

We recognize that because of these advances and the lessons learned we can now look ahead to the achievement of an AIDS-free generation. Evidenced by millions of lives saved, this progress is remarkable, but there is more to do.

Bringing an end to HIV and AIDS is a shared responsibility. Here in Rwanda, all of us must continue to work together to increase our efforts in the response, and everyone has a role to play-the private sector, civil society, and individuals themselves, as well as the Government of Rwanda and its donor partners.

The United States, through the U.S. President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) and in close partnership with the Government of Rwanda, is using recent scientific advances to implement more effective programs to provide HIV prevention, treatment, and care to millions of people worldwide, and in communities throughout Rwanda.

Eighty-eight percent of Rwanda's HIV positive population requiring anti-retroviral treatment (ART) receives this critical lifesaving medication, and the United States through PEPFAR has provided support for over 67,700 of the 111,000 men, women and children on treatment this year. Over the past year, PEPFAR has directly supported over 215,000 Rwandans with care and support programs, including nearly 60,000 orphans and vulnerable children.

PEPFAR's efforts with the Ministry of Health and other partners to prevent the transmission of HIV from mothers to newborns have allowed 96 percent of all HIV-positive mothers to receive ART, greatly increasing the likelihood that their babies will be born HIV-free. Rwanda's progress has been remarkable, and the U.S. is proud to have contributed to it.

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton has used the term 'country ownership' to describe the end state where a nation's efforts are led, implemented, and eventually paid for by its government, communities, civil society and the private sector.

In a reality of shrinking donor resources, this transition is of growing importance, and the United States is working closely with Rwanda to further its capacity to lead, support and finance an effective national response.

As we look to the future, the United States remains committed to the global HIV and AIDSresponse. We will work closely with Rwanda and its partners, including the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, to move toward a long-term response that saves even more lives and brings us closer to an AIDS-free generation.

We look forward to sharing Secretary Clinton's 'blueprint' for U.S. engagement in the fight against AIDS. It will outline U.S. goals and objectives as well as lessons learned and how we will contribute towards achieving an AIDS-free generation.

Today, on World AIDS Day, we have a lot to be proud of and a lot of worthwhile work ahead of us.

As we honor all people living with HIV and AIDS, let us also recognize the health workers, scientists, community members and others who have committed their lives to eradicating HIV and AIDS from Rwanda and our world. May we all join them in seizing this opportunity and renewing our efforts to reach the goal of an AIDS-free generation?

The writer is, U.S. Ambassador to Rwanda

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