Ambassador Vrooman Remarks at Mozambique World AIDS Day Central Ceremony (As Prepared)
Friday, December 1, 2022,
Good morning. It is an honor to mark World AIDS Day here with you, under the theme, “Let Communities Lead.” Community leaders and civil society are the people at the forefront of the fight against HIV/AIDS.
One in every eight Mozambicans are living with HIV, the majority of whom are young women. They are girls like Sonia, a girl I recently met. Sonia lives with her mother and grandmother just outside of Maputo City. While her mother goes to work, she helps her grandmother in their machamba and mercearia, selling tomatoes and onions. In the afternoon, she attends school. Sonia is in the fifth grade and wants to be a businesswoman when she grows up. Sonia is one of the nearly 250,000 children living with HIV in Mozambique. When she was very sick at age 4, she tested positive for HIV. Now, she is thriving thanks to her supportive family and the caseworkers who help ensure she takes her medicine and attends school every day. But she is part of a group that is too large. There are so many Sonia’s in Mozambique.
The United States invests $400 million every year in HIV/AIDS programs to help health workers, public servants, civil society, and others to deliver testing and treatment to as many people as possible, to as many Sonia’s as possible.
We continue to support local solutions to local problems. I am pleased to share that all new PEPFAR projects this year were awarded to Mozambican organizations.
Next year, PEPFAR celebrates 20 years of progress and partnership in Mozambique. That partnership has resulted in more than 2 million Mozambicans who are HIV positive and living full lives because they got tested and started and stayed on treatment. Every Mozambican who tests positive for HIV can immediately begin treatment, for free. That is worth celebrating.
Ladies and gentlemen, I would like to highlight the pivotal role of civil society, local partners, and the individuals who work in communities across the country. A vibrant civil society improves public health, strengthens democracies, and advocates for human rights for everyone – regardless of their gender, where they were born, no matter their profession, no matter who they love.
Communities are essential in tackling the key to ending the AIDS epidemic: prevention. The saying goes that it is not worth cleaning the floor if the faucet is still running (Não adianta limpar o chão se a torneira continua a jorrar). What does prevention look like? How do we turn off the faucet?
1) More people must get tested.
2) We must combat stigma that prevents people from seeking medical care.
3) And those who test positive must get and stay on treatment, so they do not pass the virus to others.
Did you know? The Mozambican government has established a free at-home testing initiative. We encourage the government to prepare to invest HIV treatment services and medication once a sovereign wealth fund is established.
To close, let’s remember the many Sonias throughout Mozambique. The girls who are fighting a terrible disease but are still dreaming big. We must support communities who are leading this fight against HIV in cities, towns, and villages throughout this beautiful country. We are stronger together. And together, we will continue to make a difference.
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