US Embassy Op-ed on the Occasion of World AIDS Day
On December 1, the world stands together to commemorate World AIDS Day by celebrating strong partnerships between governments, multilateral institutions, civil society and people living with HIV. The American Embassy thanks the health care workers, community service providers, caregivers, friends, and families for their tireless support of people living with HIV/AIDS; and we honor those who have lost their lives to AIDS.
This World AIDS Day we also celebrate the 15-year anniversary of the United States President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR), which has saved more than 16 million lives, prevented millions of new HIV infections, and transformed the global HIV response – community by community, country by country. Today up to 13 high-HIV-burden countries are poised to achieve epidemic control by 2020 with PEPFAR support and through our collaboration with partners. Many more of the 53 countries where PEPFAR works – including those in the Caribbean Region- are within reach of achieving epidemic control by 2020 if they accelerate their efforts and focus their resources and policies to ensure access to HIV prevention and treatment services for those most in need.
Achieving epidemic control will not only save lives but also reduce the future costs of the HIV response. Across our region and worldwide, PEPFAR is working with partner governments, multilateral partners, civil society, and people most affected by the epidemic to optimize donor and national investments. We are engaged on multiple levels across the Caribbean to strengthen regional and country leadership and sustainability. PEPFAR is also empowering and equipping civil society and communities, investing in their leadership and capacity to increase access to quality HIV services. To ensure sustainable control of the epidemic, PEPFAR is rapidly shifting its focus to strengthen partnerships with even more indigenous, local organizations to increase program impact, efficiency, and sustainability.
PEPFAR is firmly focused on the populations that data show are often being left behind by scaling up innovative approaches to reach them at the community level and provide facility-based services that are welcoming to all. In the Caribbean region, men, including men in relationships with men, have been largely left behind. It is imperative that all at-risk groups are able to know their HIV status, receive lifesaving HIV prevention and treatment services, if they are HIV-positive. Only this will break the cycle of HIV transmission and usher in an “AIDS-free Caribbean.”
As we celebrate PEPFAR’s 15th anniversary and commemorate World AIDS Day, we urge everyone to get an HIV test. We reaffirm every HIV positive person’s right to life-saving treatment immediately upon knowing your status. We honor all those who have lost their lives to AIDS and express our gratitude to those who support HIV-positive persons and who fight this epidemic everyday.