Ten years ago, AIDS was considered a death sentence. It threatened the very foundation of societies by creating millions of orphans, stalling economic development, and leaving countries stuck in poverty.
PEPFAR is the U.S. government initiative created by President George W. Bush to help save the lives of those suffering from HIV and AIDS around the world. “It is the largest effort by any nation to combat a single disease,” stated Zambia Country Coordinator Kristie Mikus when asked to reflect on the past decade of PEPFAR. “As PEPFAR builds upon its successes, it is focusing on partnering with countries to promote programs that are sustainable and country-led.”
Today, Zambia is working with PEPFAR and other partners to save hundreds of thousands of Zambian lives every day. “The partnership between Zambia and the United States through PEPFAR is one of the strongest in the world,” said Ambassador Mark C. Storella. Zambia is truly at a tipping point: between 2001 and 2011, the rate of new HIV infections dropped by 58 percent. Today, more than 455,000 Zambians are accessing antiretroviral treatment (ART), a staggering difference from 2004 when only 3,500 Zambians had access to ART. This is a tremendous achievement and together, the United States and Zambia are creating an AIDS-free generation.
There is more to celebrate on PEPFAR’s 10th anniversary. On June 18, Secretary Kerry made an announcement that wouldn’t have been considered possible ten years ago. This month, PEPFAR will have saved one million babies from becoming infected with HIV through advances in the science behind the prevention of mother-to-child transmission (PMTCT). One million babies around the world have been born HIV-free due to increased political leadership, shared responsibility, and commitment to science-based programs.
As Secretary Kerry highlighted in his commemoration speech, “PEPFAR is a story worth telling.” To convey the partnership of the American people with the people of Zambia in creating an AIDS-free generation, PEPFAR will highlight during this 10th anniversary year outstanding individuals who have demonstrated extraordinary commitment and passion in serving the people and communities living with and affected by HIV.