World AIDS Day Remarks

December 1, 2018

Karibe Hotel

Your Excellency, Dr. Marie Gréta Clément Roy, Minister of Public Health and Population;  Mr. Laure Adrien, Director General of the Ministry of Public Health and Population ; Dr. Joelle Deas, Coordonator of the National Program in the fight against HIV/AIDS (PNLS).

Dear Invited Guests, It is an absolute honor to be here today – alongside the Ministry of Health, representatives of UNAIDS, and so many dedicated partners — to commemorate World AIDS Day. World AIDS Day has a rich history – it began to honor the lives lost to this horrific disease and to raise global awareness of the growing epidemic. From then on, every year on December 1st we gather — as patients, health care providers, scientists, political and community leaders — to reaffirm our commitment to ending AIDS.

A lot has changed since the first World AIDS Day thirty years ago. An HIV diagnosis no longer signifies the end of life. Through key partnerships, political will, scientific ingenuity, and passionate persistence – people with HIV are accessing lifesaving treatment and leading healthy, productive lives.

The U.S. Government is incredibly proud of the resources and partnership we have provided to the global fight against AIDS through the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR), particularly in Haiti. Our PEPFAR Haiti program, with CDC and USAID, has a longstanding partnership with the Government of Haiti dating back to the very beginning of the PEPFAR program in 2004. Together, we have worked hand-in-hand with our partners to provide safe and confidential testing services, increase coverage of life-saving treatment to over 100,000 people living with HIV.  We have also supported the Ministry of Health to develop critical health information systems like electronic medical records and disease surveillance systems, and improve performance using data-driven interventions.

I commend the tireless efforts of the Ministry of Health and Haiti’s National AIDS Control Program to improve the provision of HIV services in Haiti. Your guidance and leadership has been critical to ushering in new policies and technology. We saw the seamless rollout of “Test and Start” in 2016 (now you can be treated the day you are tested) – making you one of the first countries in the region to successfully implement this global strategy. And this year, we witnessed tremendous growth in the number of viral load tests conducted, and improvement in the number of individuals with viral suppression. At the country level, the more we achieve viral suppression, the more we reduce the potential transmission of HIV. As we move toward epidemic control — your leadership will continue to be key to the program’s success.

I also recognize the leadership of UNAIDS and the work of the various partners working on the frontlines of HIV prevention and control — including the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Malaria, and TB and its principal recipient here in Haiti, PSI/OHMaSS, and PEPFAR Haiti’s many implementing partners. I want to thank you all of you present here for all that you do to routinely support quality and compassionate care for all people living with HIV – especially individuals from marginalized and vulnerable communities. And also for bringing innovative, fresh ideas to the fight against HIV.  By identifying positive cases through targeted HIV testing and providing community drug distribution and multi-month scripting you are improving patient retention in care. PEPFAR is incredibly honored to work with you and thanks you for your dedication.

We are closer than ever to achieving epidemic control of HIV in Haiti. But we need to reach that last mile and enroll all people living with HIV on treatment.  We must ensure those individuals who are HIV negative, especially adolescent girls and young women, stay negative. Further reducing perinatal transmission of HIV from HIV-positive mothers to their babies is also a key part of achieving epidemic control. This requires ensuring that women – including young women – have access to voluntary family planning services.

Part of the commitment to epidemic control depends on domestic resource mobilization, and increasing the Government of Haiti’s own budget for health. We have the tools and the talent to achieve epidemic control of HIV in Haiti – but we also need continuous resources.  In light of declining external resources for health activities in Haiti, I encourage the Government of Haiti to prioritize health in its annual budget and to increase its own commitment to financing the national HIV/AIDS response.  Increased domestic financing is essential to ensuring the sustainability and future of our shared investments and achievements.

Thank you, again, to the Ministry of Health, for the honor of being with us and our devoted partners today. The fight against HIV in Haiti perfectly exemplifies what can be achieved when governments, civil society, and communities are aligned in their commitment to saving lives. Let this World AIDS Day reinvigorate our spirit to keep fighting for a Haiti — and a world — free of AIDS.