Remarks for Chargé d’Affaires, a.i. Eric William Stromayer
2023 World AIDS Commemoration
Friday, 1 December 2023
Prime Minister, Dr. Ariel Henry, the Minister of Public Health and Population, Dr. Alex Larsen, other senior government officials here present, the United Nations Resident Coordinator, Ulrika Richardson, other UN colleagues present, the Global Fund Portfolio Manager, Mr. Jaime Briz de Felipe, President of the Haitian Federation of Associations of PLHIV, Edouard Dieufait, other Civil Society Representatives, PEPFAR Haiti, and other stakeholders here present, good morning. It is my honor to represent the United States and speak to you on the 35th anniversary of World AIDS Day.
For three and a half decades, December 1 has been a day of reflection, awareness, and unity in the global fight against HIV and AIDS. On this day we pause to remember those who we lost, celebrate the victories we have shared, and recommit ourselves to our goal of ending HIV/AIDS in 2030. We dedicate ourselves to ending HIV-related stigma. We thank the heroes who have dedicated their lives to the fight. And we dream of the day when we can say that HIV and AIDS no longer pose a public health risk.
This year, the United States’ theme for World AIDS Day is “World AIDS Day 35: Remember and Commit.” On this occasion, we remember the estimated 40 million people who have died of AIDS since 1981 and recommit to ending the HIV epidemic.
World AIDS Day is very important to me and my staff know that. Across Africa and in Haiti at the beginning of the 1990s, I have witnessed the HIV pandemic cause untold suffering to people, families, and entire communities. Let’s remember those times, appreciate the progress made, and recognize that the fight against HIV is not yet over. We must walk with Haiti on its journey, your journey. And if we can be helpful in some way, we believe we must do so. We support Haiti’s drive to control HIV/AIDS, and we will continue to stand with the government. Our work together is not just saving lives, but changing lives, too, creating the opportunity for Haitians to live full and bright futures, especially during the most difficult of times. Even those who are living with HIV, as we know, can live productive, creative lives, and they can take care of those who are around.
This year is especially important as we celebrate the 20th anniversary of the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR). This program, throughout the world, and particularly here in Haiti, is an example of the progress that can be made when we work collaboratively toward a common goal. In the two decades since its inception, PEPFAR has exemplified the power of international collaboration and compassion.
Since 2004, the United States has significantly invested in Haiti’s HIV prevention and treatment efforts in Haiti. Today, PEPFAR provides care and treatment support to 115,000 Haitians on antiretroviral therapy and 143,000 orphans and other vulnerable children and their caregivers. Over 13,000 new clients, including key populations and other high-risk groups, have been initiated on pre-exposure prophylaxis. Through innovative partnerships such as the Determined, Resilient, Empowered, AIDS-free, Mentored, and Safe (DREAMS) initiative, over 23,000 adolescent girls and young women have benefited from a multi-sectoral package of services aimed at reducing their risk and exposure to HIV.
Together, we have subsequently made tremendous progress towards the 95-95-95 UNAIDS targets (95 percent of people living with HIV know their status, 95 percent of those who know their status are on HIV treatment, and 95 percent of those on treatment are virally suppressed). As of September 2023, of all people living with HIV in Haiti, 95% knew their status, 82% were on treatment, and 68% were virally suppressed. We understand there is a lot more to be done. We are committed to working together toward our common goal. Together we can really change the world.
Nonetheless, instability and natural disasters, compounded by new and emerging threats such as COVID-19 and cholera, have countered Haiti’s HIV and AIDS-related gains and created new challenges.
Ending the AIDS epidemic in Haiti will only be possible when we come together and when we collaborate. Through PEPFAR, the United States has committed $225 million over the next two years to support HIV treatment and prevention efforts. This will be complemented by additional investments in health systems strengthening to prevent, detect, and respond to global health threats and deliver essential health services to the people of Haiti. To achieve these results, the U.S. government looks forward to its partnership with the Government of Haiti, multilateral institutions, civil society, non-governmental and faith-based organizations, people living with HIV, communities, the private sector, and other partners.
For the sake of those who we have lost, and turning to the leadership that we have, we know that this World AIDS Day can be another exciting milepost on a journey to a brighter future. Together, we have shown what we can do, and we will continue to do so. As a Haitian proverb says “bien pre, pas la kay. Kounye a se pa moman pou nou ap dòmi sou zorye nou. ’ To be near, is not to arrive at the house. Now is not the time to let our guard down. We must redouble our efforts to reach these objectives. Thanks you for your attention.