PEPFAR Botswana 20th Anniversary Commemoration Official Remarks by Ambassador Howard A. Van Vranken

As drafted for delivery

  • Deputy Permanent Secretary for Ministry of Health- Mr Moses Keetile (Key-eh-tee-le)
  • Deputy Permanent Secretary for Ministry of State President, Ms Dikeledi (Dee-keh-leh-dee) Phefo (Peh-foh)
  • Deputy Permanent Secretary for Ministry of Local Government and Rural Development – Ms Mmamiki (Mma-mee-key) Kamanakao (Kahmah-nah-koh)
  • Ms Mpho (Mm-poh) Mmelisi (Meh-lee-see), UNAIDS Botswana
  • Acting Program Planning Manager at the National AIDS and Health Promotion Agency, Ms Lefetogile (leh-feh-toh-ghi-leh) Bogosing (boh-goh-sing)
  • District Officer, Mr Bahiti (Bah-hee-tee) Keiphokotse (Key-poh-kohtse)
  • Representatves from government departments at national district and local levels.
  • Heads of Government Department
  • Development partners, civil society organizations and media houses.
  • PEPFAR beneficiaries and community members

Dumelang Bagaetsho!

Distinguished Guests, Ladies and Gentlemen, Good morning! I am very excited to be here with all of you this morning. Thank you for joining us to celebrate 20 years of partnership in Botswana through the U.S. President’s Emergency Fund for AIDS Relief, or PEPFAR. We are thrilled to have invested over $1 billion in the people of Botswana since 2003.

At the height of the global AIDS crisis in 2003, in many countries, an AIDS diagnosis was a death sentence, and only 50,000 people across sub-Saharan Africa were receiving the life-saving HIV treatment they needed.

For the past 20 years, PEPFAR has supported more than 50 countries around the world to emerge from the deepest devastation of AIDS, while improving the health and well-being of millions of people. Together with our partners, we brought together the strengths and expertise of U.S. government agencies, the private sector, and academia to use strategic investments, cutting-edge research, and innovation in HIV testing, diagnosis, and treatment to ensure lifesaving treatment was available to all who were eligible, regardless of age, gender, or sexual orientation.

We cannot forget the importance of HIV prevention support to limit the onward transmission of HIV to vulnerable populations, including children, adolescent girls and young women, and key populations. In many communities, where AIDS once brought death and despair, there is now life and hope and that is what we are celebrating today!

I would like to honor His Excellency Former President Festus Mogae, whose leadership was instrumental in leading the fight—he made sure medicines were widely available. He destigmatized the disease and was the first to initiate widespread testing. And he bravely told the world about the threat facing Botswana—he told the United Nations in 2001 that Botswana faced extinction if it didn’t confront this disease. That statement greatly influenced many leaders, including President Bush, who initiated PEPFAR in 2003. In part thanks to President Mogae’s vision, not to mention the leadership of President Masisi and others since then, we find ourselves in a tremendously advantageous place. Congratulations Botswana and to all her partners, who helped achieve these impressive goals together!

For 20 years, PEPFAR has provided support to the government of Botswana through the U.S. government agencies Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Department of Defense (DOD), Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA), Peace Corps, and the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID). Together we have worked to not only save and improve hundreds of thousands of lives, but also to transform the HIV/AIDS response. The progress Botswana has made in partnership with the U.S. government is demonstrated by the results of the Botswana AIDS Impact Survey V (BAIS V), the first population-based survey to confirm achievement of UNAIDS 95-95-95 goals in sub-Saharan Africa. The survey showed that 95 percent of people living with HIV in Botswana were aware of their status, 98 percent of those aware of their status were on antiretroviral therapy (also known as ART), and 98 percent of those on ART achieved viral load suppression.

In addition to achieving global targets, Botswana was awarded World Health Organization (WHO) “silver tier” status for elimination of mother to child transmission of HIV. We will continue to partner with the Government of Botswana and work towards the 2030 goal of ending HIV/AIDS and ensuring that people living with HIV in Botswana lead healthy lives long into the future!

Today is a day for celebration and joy as we bring together government sectors, partners, and PEPFAR beneficiaries to appreciate the talents of Batswana artists as they showcase the beauty and resilience of the Batswana people in their fight against HIV and AIDS. Botswana is a testament of the importance of political will, multisectoral collaboration, commitment, and innovation that changed the course of history for future generations. PULA!

I want to close by expressing my sincere appreciation to the Government of Botswana for its leadership and progress in the HIV response during our longstanding partnership. I would also like to recognize the commitment, leadership, and continued coordination and partnership with PEPFAR Botswana stakeholders including civil society organizations, the UN family, the Global Fund and other multilateral colleagues, and other allies that have made the PEPFAR program a success over the past 20 years.