USAID Administrator Mark Green's World AIDS Day Speech

For Immediate Release

Friday, December 1, 2017
Office of Press Relations
Telephone: +1.202.712.4320 | Email: press@usaid.gov

 
Maharashtra State and District AIDS Control Society Compound
Mumbai, India

 
ADMINISTRATOR GREEN: So I'm going to do something that's unusual. Normally, a person like me comes here, and I begin by saluting the dignitaries. I'm not going to salute the dignitaries. Instead, I'm going to salute all of you, because you are the ones that have made this day so special, and you are the ones that we really want to hold up and applaud. You are very kind to allow me to come and join you on this very special day.

World AIDS Day is very important to me, and my staff knows that. It really goes back to an experience that I had when I was ambassador to Tanzania. My father is a retired physician, and he had been practicing medicine back in my home place for 60 years. He came to visit me to Tanzania, and I asked him if he would come with me on a project. And on the project, we were delivering food to AIDS widows, AIDS shut-ins, so people who were isolated and at home and completely dependent upon donations for food.

And as my father and I were walking along, we came to a small place, and it looked terrible. It was in bad shape. There was no windows, no light, no electricity. We open the door, it was very, very dark. But eventually, my eyes adjusted, and I could see this poor woman, very, very ill, sitting on a bucket, a pail, in the center of the dirt floor. And we provided food to her. And as her children took the food, she sat with us and had a conversation. And she said to me, she said, "Let me tell you my story." She said, "I was a very successful business woman. I had made some money. But my husband contracted AIDS, and he died from AIDS. Several of my children have died from AIDS. These are the only children I have left."

We could tell that she herself was very ill. And she said she had lost almost all of her money, but she had a little bit of money left. So, she said, "Ambassador, I just have a question." I said, "What's the question?" She said, "With this little money I have left, should I buy books for my children who are healthy, or medicine for the ones who are not?"

I don't know how to answer a question like that. And I remember as I left, my father, a doctor, came to me, and he said, "You know, she's in the homestretch. She does not have long." And he said, "Can't the government do something?" Tanzania was poor. And I said, "The reality is, if we don't do this, if we don't step forward, it doesn't happen." And I've never, ever lost sight of that because that kind of a story is far too common. I wanted to come here on World AIDS Day because today we have a celebration. There's a carnival. We have heard inspiring stories, and we realize how much hope, in fact, there is. There is hope, and there are things to celebrate because of everyone here coming together, every level of government coming together, every part of the community coming together. We at USAID are very proud to help and play a small role.

We believe that we have an obligation to walk with India on its journey, on your journey. And if we can be helpful in some way, we believe it is our obligation to do so. We support India's drive to control HIV/AIDS, and we, again, will continue to stand with the government. Our work together is not just saving lives, but changing lives, too, creating the opportunity for Indian citizens to live a full and bright future. 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.

Here in this area, we have worked together to provide 27,000 children with access to health and nutrition services, shelter, formal and vocational education just over the last two years. More broadly, USAID and our Department of Health and Human Services, the Government of India, and The Global Fund, have come together to help reduce new HIV infections in India by 66 percent since 2000. Today, nearly 1 million people living with HIV in India are on anti-retroviral treatment. That's an extraordinary achievement. And that is something that you should be very proud of, that you should celebrate.

Ending the AIDS epidemic will only be possible when we come together and when we collaborate. Today, India itself is shouldering the vast majority of the cost to prevent and treat HIV. And this has greatly reduced the government's reliance upon foreign assistance, assistance from other countries. The Indian government, joined by civil society, activists, Indian leaders, committed state leadership, has helped to diminish what was once projected to be an HIV/AIDS crisis.

When I was in the U.S. House of Representatives in Congress, analysts in Washington, D.C., briefed me and my colleagues on estimates that said that India would be among the so-called next wave epidemics. And they warned that AIDS could spread out of control in India. But because of good leadership, because of communities coming together and because of lots of hard work, thank God that never came to pass. It is a significant achievement, and again, it is something of which you can all be very, very proud. The fight against HIV/AIDS is yet another example of how India has reached an important and exciting crossroad in its development journey. So, on this World AIDS Day, first, let us celebrate all that has been accomplished. Let us celebrate the young leaders that we have. Let's also remember those who we have lost.

Those tragic stories that we have all seen along the way. For the sake of those who we have lost, and turning to the young leaders that we have, we know that this World AIDS Day can be another exciting milepost on a journey to a brighter future. One day soon, no mother in India will have to ask the question that that mother asked of me in Tanzania. That is a question we never want to hear again.

All of us here today, working together, talking with our young people, young people coming together, talking openly about the challenges that we see and standing with them as they face their challenges. If we do that, we will have an even bigger celebration next year and the year after that and the year after that. Congratulations for all that you are doing. Thank you.

Last updated: December 01, 2017

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