Today marks the 34th anniversary of World AIDS Day, first commemorated in 1988 as a day of solidarity to honor the victims and survivors of HIV and AIDS. This year, the U.S. government’s theme, “Putting Ourselves to the Test: Achieving Equity to End HIV,” emphasizes the importance of equity in our work to eradicate HIV in the U.S. and around the world – focusing on expanding access to treatment and prevention measures for marginalized communities including children, teenage girls and young women, sex workers, transgender populations, men who have sex with men, incarcerated people, and intravenous drug users.
For nearly 20 years, USAID has played a critical role in mounting an equitable, inclusive challenge to the spread of HIV and AIDS. We have been crucial to the implementation of the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief, or PEPFAR, helping over a dozen countries with high rates of AIDS stabilize their epidemics. Through PEPFAR, we have reached over seven million people with life-saving treatment for HIV, and 95 percent of those beneficiaries have gone on to live longer, healthier lives.
Today, thanks to the work of those involved in implementing PEPFAR, along with researchers, healthcare workers, and advocates around the world, we have moved from an emergency response to the AIDS epidemic to one focused on sustained control. As we reaffirm our commitment to eradicating this virus, we will continue to find ways – through our programming and beyond – to meet the needs of the most marginalized among us. I’m grateful to our dedicated staff around the world, and to those we work with in our partner countries, for their work in building strong programs and initiatives to support the most affected communities. It is exactly this kind of work that will help us achieve our shared goal of ending HIV/AIDS as a public health threat by the end of the decade.