Remarks by Ambassador Michael Raynor on Progress toward HIV Epidemic Control in Ethiopia

Michael Raynor 
U.S. Ambassador to Ethiopia
on Progress towards HIV Epidemic Control in Ethiopia
Addis Ababa, Ethiopia
December 10, 2018

(As prepared for delivery)  

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Good Afternoon!

It’s great to be here with you today as we celebrate the successful completion of the landmark Ethiopia HIV Impact Assessment.

The encouraging results show us that Ethiopia’s commitment to fighting this epidemic, supported by a 15-year partnership between Ethiopia and the United States under the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief, are paying off.

Ethiopia has made tremendous progress in controlling the HIV epidemic.

I congratulate Dr. Amir and the leadership of his Ministry, which has mobilized communities, built partnerships, and strengthened systems to institutionalize a successful program of prevention, care, and treatment across the country.

I also congratulate Ethiopia’s team of health professionals on the ground, including:

  • The doctors, lab specialists, and epidemiologists,
  • The health extension workers, social workers, and peer support groups,
  • The case managers, clinical officers, and nurses,
  • And all of the tens of thousands of professionals working in Ethiopia’s health sector.

But as impressive as their accomplishments have been, they would be the first to acknowledge that the fight against HIV/AIDS can’t be won by governments alone.

I also want to recognize all Ethiopians living with HIV, and the associations that support them, for their crucial roles in advocating for the rights of HIV patients, in reducing stigma and discrimination, and in promoting access to testing and treatment for all.

Congratulations and sincerest thanks to each of you.

The U.S. Government is proud to be a leader in the effort to control the HIV/AIDS epidemic worldwide.

We’ve invested over 3 billion dollars in Ethiopia alone to help turn the tide and strengthen health systems to combat HIV and other 21st century health problems.

It’s an investment that’s producing tremendous results.

What was once a death sentence for so many Ethiopians is now a treatable condition.

Ethiopians living with HIV can now lead healthy, happy, and productive lives.

To help make that happen, PEPFAR has supported anti-retroviral treatment, as well as care and treatment services, for nearly five hundred thousand people in Ethiopia over the past 15 years.

When we talk about numbers that big, it’s easy to forget that what we’re really talking about is individual human beings.

We’re talking about mothers and fathers who will be there to raise their children, and who will be able to keep working to support their families.

We’re talking about children who will grow up to have families and lead productive lives of their own.

And at this incredible new moment of hope and opportunity in Ethiopia, we’re talking about people who will have the strength and capacity to help build their country’s future of political inclusiveness, stability, and prosperity.

I said that we’ve invested over 3 billion dollars toward these outcomes, and that’s true, but the results are literally priceless.

This is why we are investing in Ethiopians through PEPFAR.

And it’s how our strong partnership with Ethiopia is making real differences in real lives.

As the new HIV Impact Assessment shows, Ethiopia is on the verge of achieving HIV epidemic control.

What an extraordinary achievement.

Ethiopia is among only a few countries in Africa that are within reach of meeting the UNAIDS treatment goals by 2020, namely:  having 90 percent of those infected know their status; having 90 percent of those diagnosed receive treatment; and having 90 percent of those receiving treatment achieve viral suppression, This is an accomplishment worthy of celebration.

But there’s more to be done; and as in any marathon, the final meters can be the hardest to run.

So we can’t relax, and we can’t be complacent.

Indeed, now is the moment for us to redouble our efforts to make sure that all persons living with HIV, their sexual partners, and their biological children know their status.

We must renew our focus on improving the systematic collection, analysis, and use of quality data at all levels.

And very importantly, we must continue to address the threats to epidemic control that are caused by stigma and discrimination.

The history of public health shows us that stigma and discrimination, particularly targeting the most vulnerable among us, can undermine efforts to halt the spread of disease.

We experienced this in the United States during the early years of our fight against the HIV epidemic.

What we learned from our experience is how important it is to continue emphasizing our shared humanity and dignity, while ensuring access to quality testing and treatment services for all.

The United States remains Ethiopia’s committed partner in this fight, but I want to underscore the indispensable role of the Ethiopian Government in what has already been accomplished.

The success of Ethiopia’s HIV control program is built on the backbone of the Ethiopian public health system.

And the majority of costs in this fight – personnel, facilities, maintenance, and operations – are borne by the Ethiopian Government.

As a result, Ethiopia is recognized by PEPFAR as a model for how other countries can sustainably and successfully fight the HIV epidemic.

I strongly encourage the government to build on this model and to prioritize adequate financing of the health sector, especially for its invaluable human resources.

The strength of any public health system rests on the shoulders of its health workers, who must be well-trained, deployed in sufficient quantity, and adequately compensated to uphold the health of the population.

Finally, I’d like to note with appreciation that the Ethiopia HIV Impact Assessment, while supported by PEPFAR and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control, would not have been possible without the leadership of the Ethiopia Public Health Institute and Federal Ministry of Health, as well as the superb collaboration with Columbia University-ICAP and others who have worked tirelessly to complete this landmark achievement.

The results of this landmark assessment are essential not only for showing us how much progress has been made, but for showing us where we need to focus our efforts going forward.

Our path is clear, and we know what we must do.

Let’s recommit ourselves today to achieving and sustaining HIV epidemic control for all Ethiopians.

Thank you.