Good Morning. It is an honor to be at this important event.
Your Excellency, President Khama, I wish to congratulate you, your government, and the people of Botswana for being among the first countries in Africa to adopt the “Treat All” policy providing antiretroviral therapy to all Batswana citizens living with HIV.
How apt Botswana, preparing to celebrate 50 years of independence, is also making history with this bold move towards epidemic control and again claiming its place as a leader in the response to HIV/AIDS. Botswana was one of the first countries to provide free anti-retroviral therapy to its citizens during the peak of the epidemic and has been a world leader in successfully preventing maternal-to-child transmission of HIV. Now, this remarkable county’s adoption of the “Treat All” policy will ensure Batswana live longer, healthier lives and greatly enhance the prospect of an AIDS-free generation.
Earlier treatment lowers the risk of HIV transmission to uninfected sexual patterns. This new policy will help avert more than 120,000 new HIV infections and 55,000 deaths over the next 15 years and significantly decrease new TB cases.
The United States government through the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) is supporting Botswana’s move to Treat All with the goal of helping this nation reach epidemic control in the next three years.
Over the last decade, PEPFAR has committed more than $750 million to Botswana in the response to HIV. Together, with the Government of Botswana, civil society and other development partners, we have come a long way.
But for Test All to work, for the realization of the dream of an AIDS-free generation, we all must know our HIV status. There are still too many people who have HIV without realizing it. This is why testing is so important. You may recall my very first official event after I presented my credentials to His Excellency President Khama was a public HIV test at Tebelopele Voluntary Counselling and Testing Center.
Reaching more people with HIV prevention, care and treatment services requires strengthened linkages between health facilities and community service providers. Communities have an important role to play in the response to HIV, helping to reduce stigma and encouraging all community members to get tested and adhere to treatment.
Many challenges lie ahead of us as we work together to achieve epidemic control. But I promise you this: PEPFAR and the United States, in partnership with the government and people of Botswana, are committed to the goal of an AIDS-free generation. Through enlightened, ground breaking initiatives like “Treat All”, that goal, that seemed at times so distant and unlikely, is within our reach. Together, because of days like today, we can, we will, achieve it.
Thank you. Kea Leboga.