Ambassador Van Vranken Remarks at the PEPFAR COP23 Kick Off Meeting

May 25, 2023

As prepared for delivery

Ms. Goitsemang (Who-it-seh-mang) Morekisi (Mor-reh-kisi), Permanent Secretary, Ministry of State President
Mr. Olesitse (O-leh-si-tseh) Masimega (Ma-si-me-ha), Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Finance and Economic Development
Ms. Miriam Maroba (Ma-ro-bah), Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Education and Skills Development;
Ms. Ofentse (Offen-tseh) Boitshepo (Bu-wee-tse-po), Acting Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Health;
Ms. Onalenna (Ona-lenna) Sechele (Se-che-le), Acting Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Local Government and Rural Development;
Ambassador Dr. John Nkengasong, U.S. Global AIDS Coordinator and Special Representative for Health Diplomacy (S/GAC)
Dr. Josephine Namboze (Nam-Boze), WHO Country Representative
Mr. Alankar (Alan-kar) Malviya (Mal-viya), UNAIDS Country Representative
Dr. Joan Matji (Ma-chi), UNICEF Country Representative
Mr. Ontiretse (On-ti-re-tse) Letlhare (Le-t-hla-re), National Coordinator for the National AIDS and Health Promotion Agency (NAHPA)
PEPFAR Country Team
Distinguished Representatives from the Botswana COP23 Delegation
Distinguished Representatives from the S/GAC Front Office
Honored Guests
All protocol observed;

Dumelang bagaetsho! (Doo-mel-ang Ba-high-etso)

Good morning and good afternoon to everyone. I am delighted to speak at this year’s PEPFAR COP23 Virtual Presentation Meeting, especially as one of my first acts since presenting my credentials to President Masisi yesterday.

This year, PEPFAR Botswana’s COP23 planning process took place amid celebrations of several victories.

First, we celebrate 20 years of partnership between the governments of Botswana and the United States through the PEPFAR program. Through this partnership and with the hard work of our implementing partner organizations, we have not only saved and improved hundreds of thousands of lives but have also transformed the HIV/AIDS response.
We also celebrate Botswana as one of the countries that now leads the world in not only reaching, but surpassing, the UNAIDS 95/95/95 treatment targets and is now closer than ever before to ending HIV as a public health threat.

Botswana’s approach to this year’s COP23 planning process was informed by Ambassador Nkengasong’s vision of the PEPFAR Reimagined five-by-three Strategy. In Botswana, this strategy has meant a focus on a country-led, collaborative, and participatory planning process with the Government of Botswana, civil society, and multilateral partners. These partnerships are the cornerstone of PEPFAR’s success. Today I would like to congratulate the PEPFAR Botswana team, the Government of Botswana, civil society organizations, and our many other partners for their hard work in developing the Country Operational Plan known as COP23.

I would like also to express my sincere gratitude to Dr. Jamie Houston and Deputy Principals and members of the Interagency Headquarters Leadership for their hard work and continued support and engagement with the Botswana PEPFAR team since the start of the COP23 planning process to today as we finalize the plan.

This COP was guided by the priorities outlined by the government of Botswana, civil society, and other PEPFAR stakeholders. It has provided an opportunity to revisit our programmatic strategies to ensure alignment with government policies and to set CSO priorities as we look to the future of the HIV response.

This exercise has challenged us to be innovative, strategic, and forward thinking in identifying programmatic efficiencies and opportunities for the sustainability of the HIV response. Our PEPFAR interagency team is committed to continuing this partnership to support Botswana in reaching the unmet and sustaining HIV epidemic control.

Our collective vision for COP2023 is “Partnering to Reach the Unmet and Sustain the Response”. Botswana is poised to reach epidemic control, having surpassed 95-95-95 UNAIDS goals, at 95-98-98 among adults, according to the Botswana AIDS Impact Survey (BAIS) V. Although we have much to celebrate, we know that disparities continue to exist in pockets of the population, including children, adolescents, and young adults as well as key populations, and older men.

In COP23, our priority is to work with the Government of Botswana and stakeholders to close remaining 95-95-95 gaps across these populations, maintain HIV programming impact, and attain sustainable epidemic control. In a renewed effort to ensure equitable access to services and optimal health outcomes for all people living with HIV, in COP23, PEPFAR Botswana will continue to work with a range of different government partners, Civil Society Organizations (CSOs), private sector entities, multilateral partners, and academia to reach sub-populations that have not met the case-finding, treatment, and viral-load suppression goals. We will utilize targeted combination prevention, optimized testing, and treatment linkage interventions to ensure they are identified and remain on treatment. We will also enhance activities to further strengthen the health system. By 2025, Botswana aims to achieve viral load suppression amongst 95% of the infected population across all sub-populations. Further, by 2030, Botswana aims to achieve viral load suppression amongst 97% of the infected population across all populations.

I am honored to lead U.S. Mission to Botswana at this important juncture in Botswana’s history.
I want to close by recognizing the commitment, leadership, excellent work, and continued coordination and partnership amongst the Ministry for State President, the Ministry of Health, NAHPA (Na-Puh), Ministry of Education and Skills Development, Ministry of Local Government and Rural Development, Ministry of Finance, civil society organizations, the UN family, Global Fund, and multilateral colleagues, PEPFAR implementing partners, USG PEPFAR Botswana Implementing Agencies (CDC, Peace Corps and USAID) and all our Botswana government allies.

Thank you Bagaetsho (Ba-high-etso). Ke a leboga (Ki – ya-li-bo-ha)!