Well, it is such a great pleasure and honor to be with all of you here today to mark a new chapter in our country’s shared fight against HIV/AIDS.
And I so well remember that meeting three years ago with the Minister and with my colleague, Dr. Eric Goosby, Ambassador Goosby. We were looking for ways to be helpful. We were quite pleased at the strong position taken by President Zuma and his government. And we knew that Minister Motsoaledi had been given a huge task.
I have to tell you just personally, but also on behalf of the American team who are here, who have worked on this, we are very grateful to you, Minister, because it is one thing to – (applause) – be given a very important and difficult task, as you were, and it’s something even more important to have implemented so successfully. And to all the members of the South Africa team, at the national level, at the provincial and local level, we are very, very impressed and very grateful for what we have seen happen these last three years.
So I, of course, want to thank the Minister. Also Mayor, thank you. Mayor de Lille, thank you for being here. MEC Botha, thank you. Dr. Grimwood, Sister de Villiers, thank you all for welcoming us here today.
I am joined by a delegation of Americans who are committed to our relationship with South Africa, and in particular to our shared fight against HIV/AIDS. The U.S. Ambassador to South Africa, Don Gips, the U.S. Global AIDS coordinator, Ambassador Eric Goosby. Would you stand up Dr. Goosby, please? (Applause.) And of course, we very much appreciate working with Ambassador Rasool, who represents your country so well in Washington. Ambassador John Davies, director for North America, Assistant Secretary Johnnie Carson, who works on African issues with me in the State Department, and so many others who are here.
Since 2003, our countries have worked side by side through the U.S. initiative known as PEPFAR. Our collaboration has been vast and effective. The United States has provided $3.2 billion U.S. dollars to support South Africa’s comprehensive response to the epidemic. (Applause.) And look at the results. Together, through our joint efforts, more than 1.2 million South Africans began treatment for HIV, and 2.4 million people with HIV have received care. Nearly 15 million people were tested during last year’s national testing campaign. And I, too, wish to applaud everyone who has worked so hard to bring down the rate of mother-to-child transmission. It’s now down to a remarkable 2.7 percent, and we want to work with you to bring it to zero – (applause) – so no baby is every born with the virus.
And the number of places where South Africans can receive antiretroviral drugs has grown from 490 to 3,000, and I just saw and heard about the very impressive work being done in this pharmacy to ensure that drugs are dispensed efficiently with some very new, creative ideas about how to do that in order to try to deal with the long lines that are traditional at pharmacy windows. I’ve been in many such clinics, not only in Africa, but even in my own country, and the crowd around the windows is often two, three, four, five people deep, and it may take hours. I’m going to be immediately texting my husband about what I have seen here. (Laughter and applause.) And as you know, he worked with Dr. Goosby and other physicians and experts way back when on many of these issues. But we have to constantly be asking ourselves what can we do and what we can we do more efficiently to get more results more quickly.
Now, when we look back at where South Africa was a decade ago, these numbers represent remarkable progress. AIDS did represent an unprecedented national emergency, and we needed to scale up treatment and care to millions of people as fast as we could. That’s what we’ve done together. But let’s be honest here, this disease is still very dangerous. It’s still demands our close attention. But at least now there is a system in place that can help keep it under control and hopefully prevent it, so we can achieve that AIDS-free generation that I and others spoke of at the AIDS conference in Washington.
So please let me say to all of you across South Africa, who have contributed to this fight at every level of government, and the civil society, and the private sector, thank you for what you have done. Because of you, South Africa and the entire region has the hope for a better, healthier, more secure future.
But even as we take this moment to say well done, we cannot make the mistake of thinking our job is done. Our countries share this goal of an AIDS-free generation. That means making sure every person who needs antiretroviral treatment gets it; every pregnant woman with HIV receives the support she needs so her child is born and stays HIV-free and the mother remains healthy; all South Africans have access to the information and resources they need to protect themselves from this infection. Now, these are the objectives of the work that we’ve already begun together. We need to stay focused and committed.
And I want to just add that I was recently in Uganda on this trip, and many of you who have worked in HIV/AIDS for a long time know Uganda was the success story. Uganda tackled this epidemic earlier, more forcefully than most countries in the world. In fact, the very first patient to receive antiretroviral drugs from PEPFAR was in Kampala, Uganda, and I met him when I was there. I shook his hand. I met his daughters, of whom he is very proud. So he came in nearly dead and has now lived for years with the disease.
However – I discussed this with the President of Uganda, with health workers, with the Health Minister – Uganda is now the only country in Sub-Saharan Africa where the infection is going up, because they are the first to tell you they stopped focusing on prevention. So the system for taking care of people already infected has to be focused and supported, but let’s not forget prevention, because we do not want to see reversals of all the progress that has been made here and elsewhere.
This is has been a true partnership. Both South Africa and the United States brought resources, expertise, and commitment. We could not have done it without our mutual investment. And what we are doing here today will ensure that our partnership continues. The Partnership Framework that Minister Mashabane and I signed in 2010 described the next phase of our country’s shared fight. The document that will be signed here now, the Implementation Plan for the Partnership Framework, is a roadmap for how we will carry out this next phase. It puts South Africa firmly in the lead while committing both countries to the core goals of expanding prevention, care, and treatment to more people, while making sure that existing services continue without interruption.
By taking the lead and continuing to increase its investments, the South African Government is ensuring that its national strategy will be sustainable, efficient, and even more responsive to the specific needs of different communities and populations. And the coalition that South Africa has created with government, civil society, faith-based organizations, academic medical centers, and others will be a powerful motor for progress.
Nonetheless, some people may hear South Africa is in the lead and think that means that the United States is bowing out. So let me say this clearly: The United States is not going anywhere. (Applause.) We will continue to be your close partners through PEPFAR. We will continue working with the government and civil society. We have formed many close and vital relationships in the past decade, and we remain committed to them.
During this transition period, we will continue to directly support the healthcare needs of the people of South Africa. We will focus on supporting the South African Government as it strengthens its technical capacities so it can do even more in the long run. So while this partnership is changing, we believe it is changing for the better. This is what our governments always hoped and intended, that South Africa would increasingly be in the lead. It is a signal of the strong progress we’ve made and the strong relationship we have built.
So today at this clinic, whose name translates, I am told, into meaning “choose life,” in Cape Town alone, you are providing treatment for more than 26,000 people. You have been supported by PEPFAR. We are going to continue to work with you even as the South African Government increases its support. We are in this for the long haul. This disease is no respecter of boundaries, no respecter of any kind of attribute. It does not respect race or religion, ethnicity, gender. It is an equal opportunity infection – (laughter) – and can be an equal opportunity killer.
So this is part of what we all should be working toward, where we, with our shared humanity, reach out to help one another, but also recognize the responsibility to help ourselves. And we are delighted that we are at this important juncture. We will embark upon the next chapter in our relationship with renewed determination, because our goal is no new AIDS patients. AIDS patients – zero is the number we are looking for. And by continuing to work together and embracing smart strategies, I believe that the United States and South Africa can reach that goal.
Thank you all so very much. (Applause.)