A commitment renewed: U.S. and South Africa save lives from HIV/AIDS through smart investments; The Hill Congress Blog; Ambassador Eric Goosby, U.S. Global AIDS Coordinator


December 17, 2010

Thanks to strong bipartisan support in Congress and the leadership of President George W. Bush and President Barack Obama, the United States, through the U.S. President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR), and our partner nations are making dramatic progress in the fight against AIDS. Our investments are being used in more ways to maximize the impact we have in saving lives.

There have been remarkable advances in fighting HIV/AIDS in South Africa thanks to the strong and deepening partnership between our two countries.

South Africa has the world's largest number of people living with HIV - over five million in a population of about 50 million. The country is on the front lines of the global pandemic, with about 17 percent of the world's HIV infections.

To meet this unique challenge, the U.S. and South Africa are partnering to ensure we are getting the biggest bang for our buck from joint efforts. The smarter we are about the prevention, treatment and care we provide, the greater the number of lives will be saved.

This week, South African Health Minister Dr. Aaron Motsoaledi announced a 53 percent reduction in the prices his government will pay for the antiretroviral drugs used in their national AIDS treatment program. This price reduction will result in a savings of more than $680 million, and it will allow the South African government to treat twice as many people with the money they have budgeted.

The United States is proud to have played a key role in making this price reduction possible. Beginning last year, we provided $120 million in special funding for antiretroviral drug purchases. Our negotiations with pharmaceutical companies on pricing - with the important assistance of the Clinton Health Access Initiative - showed that it was possible to obtain significant cost reductions. And we are delighted that the South African government has now been able to use this precedent and also negotiate significant cost reductions that, until recently, would not have been thought possible.

Expanded access to treatment is part of a dramatically intensified commitment to fight HIV/AIDS led by South African President Jacob Zuma. Recognizing the devastation that the disease has caused, President Zuma and his administration have taken bold action. They have doubled investment in their national HIV/AIDS program, and now cover 60 percent of total spending. With U.S. support, South Africa currently has the largest AIDS treatment program in the world, providing life-saving treatment for more than one million men, women and children. And President Zuma launched a national testing campaign with U.S. support, recognizing the critical role of HIV testing as a gateway to prevention, treatment and care.

Through these smart investments in our shared response, we are saving lives. With support from the American people, more than five million people in South Africa benefited from HIV counseling and testing in fiscal year 2010. More than 2.1 million people received compassionate care, including more than 380,000 orphans and vulnerable children. In addition, the U.S. directly supported antiretroviral prophylaxis to prevent mother-to-child HIV transmission for more than 200,000 HIV-positive pregnant women in fiscal year 2010, allowing nearly 40,000 infants to be born HIV-free. These numbers represent people alive today thanks to bold South African leadership, with the generous support of the American people.

Going forward, the U.S. and South Africa have charted a course for our shared response that builds on these successes to save even more lives. This week, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton and South Africa's International Relations and Cooperation Minister Maite Nkoana-Mashabane signed a landmark Partnership Framework that will guide future efforts to combat HIV/AIDS in South Africa. Under the Partnership Framework, we will work together to strengthen our fight, preventing new infections, increasing life expectancy, and improving the quality of life for people living with and affected by HIV.

We are deeply grateful for PEPFAR's continued bipartisan support in Congress - a strong foundation for all we have been able to accomplish. The U.S. looks forward to partnering with South Africa and other countries as we work to turn the tide against this deadly disease.

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