PEPFAR Namibia Stakeholder Engagement Meeting

Remarks of U.S. Ambassador Thomas F. Daughton at the PEPFAR Namibia Stakeholder Engagement Meeting 

Colleagues and partners in the fight against HIV and AIDS in Namibia, ladies and gentlemen, good morning!

Welcome to the latest in our regular series of PEPFAR Namibia stakeholder engagement meetings.  I am very happy to see all of you, including many familiar faces, here today because it shows your willingness and commitment to come together in a spirit of partnership and collaboration as we seek to develop well-structured interventions and strategies that in the response to HIV/AIDS in Namibia.

The partnership between the Namibian and American people in fighting the HIV/AIDS epidemic in this country has been one of the most enduring, with more than US$1 billion invested since 2005.  The remarkable successes that we have achieved in that fight have been achieved because we have worked together.  And one of the ways in which we have sought to build a productive and collaborative partnership in the fight against HIV and AIDS is through meetings like this one.

This meeting brings together all of the main players working on the HIV/AIDS response in Namibia:  officials from the Namibian government, my colleagues from U.S. government agencies, representatives from our international development partners, our implementing partners, and all other stakeholders with an interest in this crucial work.

This meeting is designed to provide a platform where we can discuss how to improve coordination, exchange information, and share best practices, as well as review our performance.

I have been fortunate to be part of the evolution of this collaborative effort for the three years that I have been in Namibia, and I watched it from Washington, DC for a full year before that.  In that time, I have been witness to some of the remarkable accomplishments that we have achieved together, and I have developed an understanding of the opportunities we need to seize and the challenges that remain to be overcome for Namibia to reach epidemic control.

This is, however, my last stakeholder engagement meeting with PEPFAR Namibia, since my term as U.S. Ambassador here will shortly come to an end.  So I want to take this opportunity to thank you all for your incredible hard work and for your continuing efforts to save and improve the lives of Namibians across this vast country.

I firmly believe that Namibia and its partners – the U.S. government and the other partners represented here today – together have the capacity and resources to create the enabling environment, services and systems needed to control the HIV/AIDS epidemic effectively, and I have been honored to be a witness as we have all taken great strides in that direction.

But we are now at a critical juncture in our work, a point where we must focus increasingly on the issue of the sustainability of our efforts in controlling the epidemic.  In the current Namibian economic and budgetary environment, that means, among other things, focusing on how to maintain our momentum in the most resource-efficient ways possible.  With that in mind, I want to challenge all of you in your discussion here and in your daily work to look for ways to make smart investments that yield results and sustain the gains that have been made.

That needs to be done against the backdrop of us continuing to work together towards an AIDS-free generation for Namibia.  In other words, our methodical work towards achieving the UNAIDS 90-90-90 targets and thus epidemic control has to continue even as we look for ways to work smarter and more sustainable.

As many of you know, for a couple of years now I have been traveling around this country saying that I believe Namibia can reach the UNAIDS 90-90-90 targets by the year 2020.  And I do believe that.  Everything I have seen and heard in three years here has convinced me that, together with all of you, our capable partners, we can achieve the UNAIDS targets.  And if UNAIDS is right, at that point the number of new HIV infections will decrease by 90% and the number of deaths from HIV/AIDS will drop by 80%.  Those are goals we should all want to achieve.

To reach those goals, some very specific actions need to be taken.  Those include cementing our partnership by ensuring that our interventions are at all times complementary; gaining efficiencies by reducing the total cost of delivery of proven effective interventions; and reviewing and achieving our milestones in developing Human Resources for Health (HRH), increasing domestic Health Financing, and Health System Strengthening (HSS) in order to achieve continuous sustainability for epidemic control.

Success in all of these actions depends to a greater or lesser extent on data.  And because data plays a big role in how we develop our programs and identify areas for improvement, another purpose of this meeting today is to share COP16 (Oct 2016 to Sept 2017) results, look at COP 17 plans, and give a preview of the COP 18 development process.

Our specific goals today are to review our results and suggest program improvements, cast our minds forward and explore different and sustainable ways to continue fighting the epidemic, and recommit to continue coordinating and communicating with each other regularly.

Before I leave you to go over your activities and update each other on your planned interventions, I want to thank all of you for your individual efforts and accomplishments in the fight against HIV in Namibia.  Your work, both individually and collectively, is what is going to get this country to epidemic control.  I wish you all the best in your deliberations today, and with your work in the months and years to come.  Thank you.