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LIFE's First Birthday Party

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Office of National AIDS Policy

Remarks by Sandra L. Thurman,

Director, Office of National AIDS Policy

on the

Leadership and Investment in Fighting and Epidemic (LIFE's) First Birthday Party

during the 13th International AIDS Conference

Durban, South Africa

July 11, 2000


Thank you for joining us this morning as we reflect on the first year implementation of President Clinton's LIFE Initiative. Before we get down to specifics -- I thought it would be helpful to share with you a brief history of the United State's increased response to the HIV/AIDS pandemic through what is now known as the LIFE Initiative which stands for Leadership and Investment in Fighting an Epidemic.

The United States has been engaged in the fight against AIDS since the early 1980s. But increasingly we have come to realize that when it comes to AIDS both the crisis and the opportunity have no borders. We have a great deal to learn from the experiences of other countries, and the suffering of citizens in our global village touches us all.

We have done much, but there remains much more that the United States and other developed nations can and must do.

A year and a half ago our President directed me to travel to Africa to report to him on ways we could expand our response to the AIDS pandemic in Africa, particularly as it affects children. Since then I have made seven trips to eleven African countries. Together with Members of the Cabinet, Congress and corporate America we went to witness firsthand both the tragedies and triumphs of AIDS in Africa. In response to the findings of these trips, the Administration requested and the Congress appropriated an additional $100 million in FY2000 to enhance our global AIDS efforts.

This new initiative provides for a series of steps to increase US leadership through support for some of the extraordinary community-based programs currently being funded through USAID and to provide much needed technical assistance through the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention [CDC]. This effort more than doubled our funding for prevention and care programs in Africa, and challenged our G8 and other partners to increase their efforts as well. We are delighted that Great Britain and Canada have done just that!

The initiative focuses on four key areas:

  • Prevention particularly stigma reduction strategies, especially for women and young people, including: HIV education, voluntary counseling and testing, and interventions to reduce mother-to-child transmission.
  • Home and community-based care This will help to create and enhance counseling and support systems, and to provide some

basic medical care (including treatment for related illnesses like STDs and TB).

  • Care of children orphaned by AIDS through nutritional assistance, education, training, health, and counseling support, in coordination with micro-enterprise programs.
  • Infrastructure These funds will help to increase the capacity for the effective delivery of essential services through governments, NGOs, and the private sector.

And in the face of such tremendous need, the Clinton Administration has requested an additional $100 million increase to enhance and expand our efforts to combat AIDS in Africa and around the world. This vital funding will be debated in Congress tomorrow. If secured, these funds will enable us to bolster our efforts already underway at USAID and CDC which you will hear about from my colleagues in a moment -- and to expand our approach to include the Departments of Labor and Defense for efforts to address HIV/AIDS transmission in the workplace and in the military.

Some of the other key components of this initiative include an increase in our efforts to include the AIDS epidemic in our foreign policy dialogue, to promote the use of resources freed up by debt relief for social and health programs especially HIV prevention, and to engage all sectors including business, labor, foundations, the religious community and other non-governmental organizations in a broad-based mobilization.

This initiative recognizes that AIDS is much more than health crisis it is fundamental development crisis, an economic crisis, and a security and stability crisis. For that reason, we have sought to include every department in our government in this effort. We have seen the success of a broad based multisectoral approach in Uganda and elsewhere, and we believe that it has great promise in our country as well.

The LIFE Initiative provides a great opportunity to shift old paradigms and is providing help and hope to countless individuals and families in new and different ways. Through LIFE we are joining forces both at home, in Africa, and around the world.

Closing remarks:

While the LIFE initiative greatly strengthens the foundation of a comprehensive response to the pandemic the United States clearly understands that there is more much more that needs to be done. UNAIDS has estimated that it will take $1.5 billion to establish an effective HIV prevention program in sub-Saharan Africa and an additional $1.5 billion to deliver basic care and treatment to people with AIDS in the region. Unfortunately our collective global investment in Africa is only one tenth of that amount.

The United States cannot and should not do this alone. This crisis will require the active engagement of all segments of all societies working together. Every bilateral donor, every multilateral lending agency, the corporate community, the foundation community, the religious community and every host government of a developing nation must do its part to provide the leadership and resources necessary to turn this tide. It can and it must be done.

The bottom line is this: we have no vaccine or cure in sight, and we are at the beginning of a global pandemic, not the end. What we see in Africa today, frankly, is just the tip of the iceberg. As goes Africa, so will go India and the Newly lndependent States of the Former Soviet Union. There must be a sense of urgency to work together with our partners in Africa and around the world, to learn from both our failures and our successes, and to share this experience with those countries that now stand on the brink of disaster. Millions of lives perhaps hundreds of millions of lives hang in the balance.

The pages of history reveal moments in time when the global community came together and collectively found what President Clinton calls "the higher angels of our nature". In a world living with AIDS we must reach for one of those historic moments now or pay the price later.


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