Remarks by Ambassador Eric Goosby, U.S. Global AIDS Coordinator, at Launch of Global Plan towards the Elimination of New HIV Infections among Children by 2015 and Keeping their Mothers Alive

June 9, 2011

New York, NY

Well, I am profoundly honored to be with this distinguished panel – the Secretary General, the President, Goodluck Jonathan, and all of our president – President Clinton. This is truly an historic moment for Michel Sidibé and myself to position this effort to concentrate on a strengthening exercise that brings this to a reality.

Today we join forces toward an ambitious yet achievable goal, ending pediatric AIDS and keeping mothers alive around the globe. In the United States and Europe, pediatric AIDS is now an artifact of history; yet in many countries, nearly one baby is born with HIV every minute, despite us having the know-how to prevent it.

Ensuring that all babies are born HIV-free must be a global priority and not left to a lottery of geography. Children everywhere deserve a healthy start in life and they deserve a mother not just to help bring them into the world but to raise them.

As we’ve learned from 30 years of struggle, extraordinary things happen when we work together. By uniting around our common humanity and our shared responsibility, we can change not just the course of the epidemic but the course of history for individuals, for families, and communities around the world.

Not long ago, many said that HIV prevention was not possible everywhere, that HIV treatment indeed was not, could not be done in Africa. This and these thoughts that actions to prevent mother-to-child transmission of HIV would not work in resource-poor settings. Well, we have shown the world that where there’s a will, there’s a way. Together we ended pediatric AIDS in the developed world. Today we continue our journey toward building an HIV-free generation everywhere, starting at the beginning with the babies.

I’m proud to co-chair with my friend and colleague, Michel Sidibé, the Global Task Team that created this global plan, and I’d like to just review several key elements.

First, the plan focuses on national ownership. There are 22 countries, as President Clinton said, which carry 90 percent of the global MTCT problem. All of them were an integral part of this team, and this plan reflects their views. Countries must lead, clearly or we will not be successful.

We have made great strides together. We must all do more, and we must do it in an opportunity – with an opportunity to focus on putting a technical assistance strategy together that is responsive to the ministries of health and the civil society planning bodies that have already been addressing this epidemic in their respective countries.

We see this as a strengthening exercise that will facilitate the resources, both intellectual and in some instances human resources as well as money, to help make those connections to identify women, test them, enter them in care, and retain them through the duration of their gestation, delivery, through breast feeding, and link – strongly link – their care of both the child and the mother into extended care for the duration of their life. This is a continuum of care and services that needs to be explicitly defined and mapped out for each population we’re focused on.

That’s the commitment of this strengthening exercise. It is not rocket science. But as President Clinton alluded to and as President Jonathan also said, it is a complicated series of systems that must talk to one another that do not generally talk to one another. That connectivity, the development of that continuum of care, is the critical piece that this strengthening exercise is going to close the gap on and move us forward.

Today I am pleased to answer the call to action contained in this plan. I believe it contains the elements that will bring us to a successful outcome. It will identify and converge with UN bodies that have been focused on this problem for 10, 15 years. It will give us an opportunity to use their resources in an effective, I believe highly effective, orchestration of a technical assistance strategy that can concentrate on the issues that need to be unplugged, on the barriers that are blocking the movement of those systems talking to one another, to allow us to prevent the infections from being generated and embrace the mother and the child in a continuum of care and services.

PEPFAR will dedicate an additional $75 million to the PMTCT efforts. This funding will be on top of the approximately 300-plus million that PEPFAR already provides annually for PMTCT. (Applause.)

Through the Global Health Initiative and PEPFAR, the Obama Administration has put maternal and child health at the forefront of its global health agenda. We believe that healthy families build healthy communities and more secure nations. The Global Health Initiative will allow us to converge resources that are already present and existing in vertical programs within countries that have not been contributing specifically to this effort to converge on this effort.

None of us can do this alone, but together we can help ensure that our children are born HIV-free. This call to action will identify partners within government, already existing ministries of health, already existing institutions within the countries in which we work, to challenge them to look at the way in which they can contribute, to identify, enter, and retain, and embrace mothers and children in care and services for the duration of their lives.

I want to thank our other partners who have joined the United States in immediately answering the global call to action in this plan. In particular, I’d like to thank our private partners – the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, the Chevron Corporation, Johnson & Johnson – for their significant and generous investments in the future of mothers and children so that we can continue to serve the needs of this burdened population.

Finally, I am proud to premier a new movie trailer, the courtesy of our friends who have become very good friends with us at Warner Bros., who have helped us see our opportunities with clarity. I hope it will inspire all Americans who view it to work to save mothers, to save babies, and to build stronger families. Thank you. (Applause.)

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