December 1, 2023
Many thanks for joining my Embassy colleagues and me at the American Corner to recognize the 35th World AIDS Day and to discuss U.S. Government assistance to the people of South Sudan to help save lives that would otherwise be lost to HIV.
This year’s theme, “World AIDS Day 35: Remember and Commit,” pays tribute to the more than 40 million lives we have lost to HIV/AIDS around the world. It is also an opportunity to recommit to the global mission to end HIV/AIDS by 2030.
The impact of the AIDS pandemic is profound, affecting millions of people, families, and entire communities around the world – including here in South Sudan where only 200 health facilities across the country have the staff and resources needed to provide comprehensive care for the estimated 160,000 people living with HIV.
Twenty years ago, U.S. President George W. Bush announced the creation of the U.S. President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief, also known as PEPFAR. Since that historic announcement, the people of the United States have provided more than $100 billion to save more than 25 million lives. These efforts continue to strengthen the critical health infrastructure needed to effectively respond to health crises such as COVID-19 and Ebola.
In South Sudan, the U.S. Embassy and our partners work together to help strengthen the country’s fragile health system by providing resources and technical assistance to reach children, youth, young women and men, women who are breastfeeding or pregnant, and military personnel to prevent new infections and help ensure people follow their treatments.
U.S. support for the people of South Sudan began decades before the independence of this country. PEPFAR is but one element of this, but it is the one we are talking about today.
Before we do, I would note that our decades-long engagement in South Sudan is based on foundational values including belief in human rights, democracy, and people’s right to a government that uses public resources to address public needs. In the regard, we call upon the transitional government to increase its funding to the health sector in order to participate in what has for far too long been a donor-led effort to help meet the South Sudanese people’s health needs.
Returning to PEPFAR, since 2007, the United States has provided $367 million for HIV relief in South Sudan through the PEPFAR Program. This year, PEPFAR’s budget in South Sudan is $42 million.
Of the more than 61,000 South Sudanese living with HIV currently on treatment, 87 percent receive support from PEPFAR. In 2023, PEPFAR enrolled 12,600 new clients on treatment.
The impact of this epidemic has been profound, affecting individuals, families, and entire communities across the globe. Remembering the lives lost not only honors their memory but also emphasizes the urgency of our commitment to end the HIV epidemic.
Through remembrance, we draw strength and determination to redouble our efforts in fighting the disease and providing support to those with HIV. It’s time to remind ourselves of the importance of compassion, empathy, and solidarity in the face of adversity.
In South Sudan, PEPFAR has helped enable HIV-carrying mothers to give birth to more than 2,100 babies who were born HIV-free. Through PEPFAR, we have also provided critical care and support for 3,700 orphans, vulnerable children, and their caregivers to mitigate the physical, emotional, and economic impacts of HIV.
There is still so much more we need to do to effectively prevent and respond to HIV and AIDS. As I noted, this includes increased Transitional Government use of public revenue to address public health needs.
I will conclude by thanking the representatives of our implementing partners who are here with us today. I know I speak for all of my U.S. Embassy colleagues involved in PEPFAR when I express my appreciation for your dedication, courage, and commitment. It is an honor to be working together with you to help save lives in South Sudan.