Statement from Ambassador Deborah L. Birx, M.D., on Nelson Mandela International Day

July 18, 2017

Nelson Mandela, one of the most visionary leaders in modern history and former president of South Africa, believed that everyone has the ability and responsibility to change the world for the better. His bold words at the 2000 International AIDS Conference in Durban, South Africa, still inspire me: “In the face of the grave threat posed by HIV/AIDS, we have to rise above our differences and combine our efforts to save our people. History will judge us harshly if we fail to do so now, and right now.”

Each year on Mandela’s birthday, July 18, the global community comes together to recognize Nelson Mandela International Day and encourage spending 67 minutes helping others. This is in recognition of the 67 years Mandela devoted to the service of humanity.

Nelson Mandela International Day is a moment to take action and inspire change. The U.S. President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) is committed to doing just that – leading the way in the HIV/AIDS response, thanks to the generosity of the American people.

Together, we have the historic opportunity to control and ultimately end the HIV/AIDS epidemic. This will not happen easily or automatically but, as Nelson Mandela often said, “It always seems impossible until it’s done.”

Ambassador Deborah L. Birx, M.D., is the U.S. Global AIDS Coordinator and U.S. Special Representative for Global Health Diplomacy.