As a PEPFAR family, we join Americans across the United States and people around the world to express deep distress at the brutal killing of George Floyd. This moment has reopened a deep and indelible wound in America, one we must all contend with in our hearts, families, and communities and that must spur us to action. As a nation, and as a world, we must confront the inequality, injustice, and racism that stand in the way of realizing the society to which we should all aspire.
Here at PEPFAR, we are committed to help catalyze the critical changes that are required. Racism has no place in the conduct of our work or the treatment of our personnel. Since PEPFAR’s inception, our mission has stood in direct contrast to the racism and disregard for human life and dignity we saw in the horrific killing of Mr. Floyd. PEPFAR was founded by a coalition of partners to reaffirm the value and dignity of life, and to show the best of the American people in service to the most vulnerable and underserved people in societies across the world. We aspire to serve all, independent of race, gender identity or expression, age, disability, or sexual orientation.
Seventeen years later, we remain focused on delivering life-saving HIV treatment services for people living with this too often stigmatized disease, and life-changing prevention services to people at the highest risk for HIV infection. Despite our best efforts, many of our clients still face discrimination, prejudice, and violence in their countries and communities every day. Yet together we have made a real difference, including by creating the DREAMS Partnership to focus on underserved and marginalized young women, the Key Populations Investment Fund to surge HIV prevention and treatment resources for LGBT populations, and the MenStar Coalition to better serve young men with HIV testing and treatment.
This moment must be an inflection point and must lead us toward urgent, meaningful, and sustained change. We have been reflecting deeply on how we can do better, be better. Upon those reflections – and in consultation with our staff – we are taking a series of concrete actions, including but not limited to: re-establishing an S/GAC-wide code of conduct grounded in our shared values; establishing an S/GAC Diversity and Inclusion Committee; making the Department’s “Mitigating Unconscious Bias” course mandatory for all S/GAC staff; and – importantly – creating safe, open spaces for S/GAC staff to share their lived experiences. We are committed to fostering a culture of inclusion, where staff feel welcome, heard, safe, and valued. Beyond these immediate actions, we pledge to continually engage across the wider PEPFAR family, including with our implementing agencies and implementing partners, to heighten our vigilance in combating racism and injustice.
I am so proud of and so grateful for the work our team does every day. I have never met a more committed and compassionate group of people. Now more than ever, in order to advance the PEPFAR mission, particularly in the midst of the unprecedented COVID-19 pandemic, we must listen to, hear from, and care for each other. And we must live our principles through actions that put real power behind our words.