SECRETARY BLINKEN: Good morning, everyone. This was a real privilege to be here at Lawes Road at this clinic, where quite literally our partners are saving lives, changing lives, every single day. The United States – we’ve been a committed partner in helping to deal with HIV/AIDS for many years, particularly through the PEPFAR program, and we are powerfully committed going forward because here in Papua New Guinea, unfortunately, we’ve actually seen HIV rates rising, not falling. It’s hugely important to continue to work to get ahead of that. I had an opportunity to talk to some of the clinicians but also some remarkable people who have been living with HIV/AIDS but are now helping in their own communities to spread the word about the treatments available and encouraging people to come forward.
One of the biggest challenges that we know from our experience around the world, and we see here is that the antiretroviral treatments are incredibly effective, and people live full lives with HIV/AIDS if they’re on an antiretroviral. But because of stigma that people impose upon themselves or that their communities may impose, they may be reluctant to come forward. It is so important to come forward to seek treatment. It’s simple, it’s easy, and it works. And now there is also a treatment that is prophylactic – in other words, that can actually prevent the transmission – that’s 99 percent effective called PrEP. And for people who are particularly at high risk, this is a very, very effective means of preventing the transmission, and here at Lawes Road they are able to share that as well.
So part of my reason for coming here today is just to help in our own way to put a spotlight on this because it remains a real challenge in Papua New Guinea. We want to help. I am so grateful to my colleagues at USAID who are leading this effort with our partners here in Papua New Guinea. This support has made a huge difference, but it can make more of a difference if we can continue to get people to come forward, and particularly the communities themselves. This is the most effective way to share information, to educate people about what’s available, and to have people come forward.
The other thing that’s very powerful here is that this clinic is also dealing with gender-based violence and helping victims of gender-based violence get the psychosocial services they need, work through the legal system, get other support. And that too is hugely, hugely important for people to come forward, to get the support that you can get here.
In our own home country we’ve had this challenge, and I can say that one of the things that President Biden is proudest of in his career in the United States Senate, as Vice President, now as President, in all that time the thing that he’s probably the most proudest – proud of is the fact that he wrote the law, the Violence Against Women Act. That made violence against women a federal crime but also put in place a remarkable system for people to get help, national hotlines for people who were at risk or who had been victimized by gender-based violence. So this is something that he feels very strongly. It was inspiring to meet the clinician here, who’s working every day to help people who are victimized by gender-based violence.
The United States is proud to be a partner with the government, with our local implementing partners. It’s something we’re deeply committed to. And I just wanted to put a little spotlight on that today because it remains a big challenge here, but one that we can overcome working together and especially with the remarkable people here at Lawes Road who every single day are saving lives and changing lives.