Monday, December 1, 2008

Goodwill Message by Ambassador Sanders at the World AIDS Day at the Eagle Square

Remarks by U.S. Ambassador Robin Renee Sanders
Goodwill Message: World AIDS Day at Eagle Square

December 1, 2008

Speech as prepared for delivery.

All protocols duly observed.

It is my pleasure to commemorate and celebrate World AIDS Day 2008. For more than 25 years, the world has witnessed the devastating impact of HIV/AIDS. Until recently, many of our friends living with HIV/AIDS wondered whether prevention or treatment could ever succeed in environments where resources, assistance, and care were limited, and where having HIV was considered a death sentence.

This is my second celebration of World AIDS Day in Nigeria, and I was here nearly nine years ago when the devastation of the disease was only coming to the fore, but so too was the stigmatism.

Today it is a better story, but a story that still needs a better ending. World AIDS Day is not only about continuing the fight against a stigmatism, but also making sure that those living with HIV/AIDS are not only taken care of, but never forgotten.

I am here to tell you that my Government is a partner in your fight for care, treatment, and prevention. Toward this end, the U.S. Government and the American people have provided- since 2004- more than $1 billion U.S. dollars for this purpose, with an expected increase of another $450 million dollars next year. We are the largest donor -- under our PEPFAR program world-wide and also here in Nigeria in support of the fight on this issue.

We must never let our guard down against this fight as the numbers of those affected world-wide are staggering, and in Nigeria even more of a concern, as those most affected tend to be women and children.

If you can imagine just five years ago, only fifty thousand people in all of sub-Saharan Africa living with HIV/AIDS were receiving treatment. As of the end of September, 2008, in Nigeria alone, the Government of Nigeria, in partnership with the U.S. Government, through the U.S. Mission in Nigeria, is supporting nearly 211,000 men, women, and children with treatment.

The U.S. Government’s work on HIV/AIDS, with the Government of Nigeria and our partners, focuses on the communities around the country. Together, we have helped and reached two million people with HIV counseling and testing, and more than 640,000 pregnant women have received health services for the prevention of mother-to-child transmission of HIV.

This is just one side of the story. Clearly these achievements are not possible with money alone. It is the courage, dedication, and commitment of individuals in countless communities across Nigeria that are choosing life, and saving the lives and creating hope for a future for those living with HIV/AIDS and their families, and the hope of an HIV/AIDS-free future for the next generation.

On this World AIDS Day, we celebrate the lives saved as a result of Nigeria’s commitment to fight this deadly disease. The U.S. Government is happy to be a partner in that commitment. We celebrate those who mobilize communities, who provide care with dignity and compassion, and who work hard to prevent the spread of HIV.

As we celebrate this 20th World AIDS Day, we are celebrating life, leadership, friendship, and partnership. Together, the Nigerians and Americans have proven that with support and leadership, ordinary people can do extraordinary things.

For all of the people today who are living with HIV/AIDS, or caring for someone with it, you are today- and every day- extraordinary people. We honor all of you because you are the leaders, you are courageous, and you are an example for all of us. We salute you on this day, and let’s make every day in 2009 a World AIDS Day. Thank you.