Good morning and thank you for welcoming me to Namibia. I should confess up front that this is the first time I am speaking to a public audience as U.S. ambassador to Namibia. I can’t think of a better occasion to mark my first appearance than the commemoration today of World AIDS Day, where I have marched alongside the dedicated professionals, activists and caregivers that I heard so much about before I came to Namibia.
Ladies and gentlemen, I am here today to tell you that the United States remains committed to its partnership with Namibia and wants Namibia to succeed. That’s why the U.S. has invested more than a billion U.S. dollars in Namibia in the 25 years since its independence. We have invested in Namibia’s people because we fundamentally believe that individuals are the engines that drive development. Namibia has reaped the benefits of our partnership by growing its economy, tending to the health of its people, and solidifying its status in the region as beacon of economic stability and democratic governance.
The Namibia we see today reflects the efforts of all the Namibians who have seized the opportunities presented by our partnership. People can now get treated for AIDS and live long, productive lives. Mothers living with HIV can give birth to healthy babies. Namibia even stands on the brink of eliminating mother-to-child transmission of HIV, promising that we can see in our lifetimes the first AIDS-free generation.
In short, Namibia has made extraordinary progress in responding to the HIV/AIDS epidemic. With American support, Namibia has reduced the number of new HIV infections by more than half since 2001. That’s a remarkable accomplishment. But much remains to be done, particularly if we are to achieve that shared goal of an AIDS-free generation.
Given the incredible progress that has been made to date, we are focused more than ever before on trying to direct our efforts in the most effective way possible. Our experience working together to combat HIV/AIDS in Namibia has taught us that, in order to achieve the first AIDS-free generation, we must deliver the right intervention in the right parts of the country, targeting the most vulnerable populations, and doing it in ways that are programmatically and financially sustainable. What that means in practice is that we must constantly evaluate our programs to ensure that we are responding effectively with our partners to the areas and the populations with the most critical need.
Make no mistake: the United States remains committed to working with the government and people of Namibia toward our shared goals of zero new infections, zero AIDS-related deaths, and zero discrimination.
We will continue to use funding from the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief – or PEPFAR – to provide technical assistance in Namibia through an array of U.S. government agencies, including the United States Agency for International Development, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (or CDC), the U.S. Department of Defense, and the Peace Corps.
Through Peace Corps Volunteers, we will continue to invest one of our most precious contributions: time — the time and attention it takes to teach math, science and English; the time to help mentor aspiring entrepreneurs; and the time it takes to support orphans and vulnerable children through youth clubs, to help increase voluntary counseling and testing, and to reduce stigma and discrimination for those infected and affected by HIV/AIDS.
Through CDC, we will continue to support the Ministry of Health and Social Services in treating HIV-positive individuals, to add to the more than 126,000 HIV-positive Namibians who were treated in 2013. We’ll also continue to work with the Namibian government to treat HIV-positive pregnant women – like the 8,600 treated in 2013 – to reduce transmission of HIV to their newborn children.
Through USAID, we will continue support Orphans and Vulnerable Children, like the 27,000 that have been supported this year, and we will continue to support provision of HIV counseling and testing services, adding to the more than 328,000 Namibians counseled in 2014.
And through the U.S. Department of Defense, PEPFAR will continue to support the Ministry of Defence in providing prevention services to military populations, including stigma reduction, access to condoms, and voluntary male circumcision.
Let me add a word about voluntary male circumcision. Science demonstrates that circumcision reduces a man’s risk of acquiring HIV infection by 60 percent. That is exactly the kind of focused intervention we are partnering with Namibia to deliver. So the U.S. will continue supporting circumcision programs, because we believe they can change the landscape of HIV/AIDS in Namibia, benefiting not just the men involved, but their partners as well.
Ladies and gentlemen, what started as a donor-recipient relationship between our two countries 25 years ago has evolved into a partnership of trust between two nations with common goals, a partnership between equals committed to improving opportunity for all Namibians. It is this partnership, forged through years of dedication, trust, and hard work that is the foundation for the future relations between our two countries.
Before I conclude my remarks, please allow me to thank all of the members of the World AIDS Day committee who worked to make today’s event such a great success. I particularly want to acknowledge the work of the Khomas Regional Council, the Ministry of Youth, the Ministry of Health and Social Services, ErongoMed, and Physically Active Youth. I look forward to visiting with each of you to explore how we can continue to collaborate as equal partners.