An AIDS-free Generation in Ethiopia – The Time to Act is Now!

n this World AIDS Day 2015, imagine if we had everything we need – the tools, the science, and the shared goals – to reduce the number of women, men, and children newly infected by HIV by 90%. Imagine the creation of an AIDS-free generation that eliminates HIV as a public health threat and where no one is left behind.  Such a future, once inconceivable, is now possible.  But we must seize the opportunity to reach it.  As this year’s World AIDS Day theme states – “The Time to Act is Now!”

This is the moment for us to focus and implement programs that enable control of the HIV/AIDS epidemic.  Over the last 15 years, we achieved remarkable results working together toward the Millennium Development Goals.  Today, we must stand together and demonstrate our collective resolve to meet the challenge we identified when we agreed to the new Global Goals: End the AIDS epidemic by 2030.

The U.S. President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) is the largest commitment by any nation to combat a single disease. Through PEPFAR, the U.S. government has committed nearly $2 billion in order to support the HIV/AIDS response in Ethiopia.

Earlier this year, President Obama set a bold course for PEPFAR by announcing new HIV prevention and treatment targets for 2016 and 2017.  By the end of 2017, PEPFAR will support 12.9 million people with life-saving HIV treatment and provide 13 million male circumcisions.  PEPFAR will also reduce HIV incidence by 40 percent among adolescent girls and young women within the highest burden geographic areas of ten sub-Saharan African countries.  This is the first time that the U.S. government has set such a target.

In Ethiopia, PEPFAR directly supports life-saving antiretroviral treatment (ARTs) for more than 381,000 men, women and children.  Additionally, more than 1,138,600 people are reached through care and support programs, including 760,000 orphans and vulnerable children. This year, PEPFAR’s programming efforts around the prevention of mother-to-child transmission have provided 18,600 mothers with ARTs, greatly increasing the chance that their babies will be born HIV-free. This figure represents two-thirds of all HIV-positive women estimated to have been pregnant in 2015.

PEPFAR is sharing the Government of Ethiopia’s commitment to deliver on the promise of an AIDS free generation in Ethiopia.  Ethiopia was among the first African countries to reach the programmatic “tipping point,” the point at which the number of people newly starting antiretroviral therapy exceeds the number of new HIV infections.  Therefore we agree that PEPFAR’s investment in Ethiopia, as a long term strategy country, aims for continuous targeted reductions in both new HIV infections as well as AIDS related deaths.

Achieving our goals will not be easy.  To reach them, we all must share responsibility and resolve to strengthen our efforts.  Working in partnership, we have come a very long way since the darkest days of the epidemic, but the work is far from done.

Today, we invite and challenge government leaders, scientists, civil society, faith-based organizations, and the private sector to join together in solidarity to finally bring this unrelenting epidemic to a halt.  We can create an AIDS-free generation where no one is left behind.  But we must continue working together to make it happen.

The Time to Act Is Now.