Good morning. Ambassador Gaspard, Patrick, thank you so much for your generous comments. We miss you here in Washington but send you our best regards and sincere thanks for all of the great work you are doing in South Africa.
I also want to thank our new Global AIDS Coordinator, Ambassador Deborah Birx. Deb has hit the ground running and I don’t think she is going to stop folks. She may be the only person in government with more frequent flyer miles than the President.
I’m really disappointed that my schedule didn’t allow me to join you in Durban today. But I will tell you that I will always remember my trip that my wife Teresa and I made to Durban and to the Umgeni Primary School several years ago. I don't know if you know it, my wife actually went to school in Durban and then to university at Wits, Wits Witwatersrand in Johannesburg. So we came back with a very special sense of the place. And I must say we were both stunned really by the sight of so many young children, without mothers and fathers, all shouldering the responsibilities of adulthood. Our hearts broke seeing so many orphans, so many boys and girls robbed, literally, robbed of their childhood. Some of them were taking care of grandparents or other family members, supporting all their sibllings. I will never forget the courage of many single mothers, weak and coughing, and struggling, but managing to do everything they could to provide a better future for their children.
Today, millions of children are waking up to a brighter future because of your continued commitment. I am very proud of the role that I was able to play in PEPFAR’s birth and the progress that we continue to make under President Obama.
Last World AIDS Day I was honored to stand with the President as he announced that PEPFAR had not only met but exceeded its goal: 6.7 million people are now receiving treatment supported by PEPFAR. It's an astounding number – a four-fold increase since the beginning of the Administration. And it was about this time last year that I had the privilege of announcing that one million babies had been born HIV-free because of PEPFAR’s support.
You and I know that these are much more than numbers. Every one of the millions PEPFAR has treated has a name, it's a person. Every one of these men and women has a unique contribution to make. Their lives remind us of what we have achieved, but more importantly, reminds us of the steadfast commitment that we will need to achieve an AIDS-free generation.
Reaching that remarkable goal requires an obligation from each one of us to what we have set out to achieve in Durban: to have greater transparency, greater accountability, and to work with our partners to reach more men and women.
As part of that effort, I am calling on PEPFAR and U.S. Government agencies to establish an Interagency Collaborative for Program Improvement. With this effort, we will bring together the key experts implementing PEPFAR across U.S. agencies. These leaders will share data and share best practices in order to deliver better quality services at a better cost.
So let me be crystal clear. This is not a practice in applying management buzzwords to what we already do; it’s about really delivering the stronger partnerships that we need in order to promote accountability and to save more lives. It’s about providing better support to countries like South Africa who are leading the way through Country Health Partnerships.
What you have already achieved was truly absolutely unthinkable. It was an unthinkable dream a little more than a decade ago. What’s most inspiring is, we’re not done yet. With your efforts in Durban and across the world, we absolutely have the ability to achieve an AIDS-free generation. We can silence the armies of pessimism and the armies of indifference who said it could never be done. We can and we will defeat this horrible disease.
Thank you, all of you, for your work. And I look forward to continuing to work with you together in the days ahead.