PEPFAR COP 16 Civil Society Engagement Meeting

Ambassador Pittman Remarks
PEPFAR COP 16 Civil Society Engagement Meeting
Radisson Blue Hotel
Ambassador’s Opening Remarks

Good morning and thank you for joining us here today. I am honored to be standing here before you to open this meeting which represents a concerted effort to strengthen our partnership with you as leaders of local organizations whom are critical contributors to the fight against HIV/AIDS and to control the HIV/AIDS epidemic in Mozambique.

In the last ten years, the PEPFAR program has shifted from a response focused on the delivery of emergency services to a targeted program focused on evidenced-based interventions, sustainability, and shared responsibility.  What we have come to learn and understand over the last few years is that to achieve a comprehensive continuum of response where quality services are accessible and meet the needs of patients, we must all share the responsibility; from the highest forms of Government to civil society organizations working in community level across the country.  The responsibility falls not to one, but to all.

When the US Government develops plans to combat the HIV/AIDS epidemic and assist the people of Mozambique we make every effort to align our funding with the goals of the country.  Recently there have been disturbing disclosures about secret debt contracted by the Government of Mozambique. The decision to take on such large loans outside of public view and official deliberation sends a clear message that the priorities of the Government have changed. Together we need to maintain pressure on the Government to ensure that spending in critical sectors, such as health, are not impacted and that donor funds are not diverted from critical lifesaving therapy to cover basic expenses that have been cut from the state budget.  We need civil society to help us foster a culture of accountability and to ensure that all of our health sector funding is being spent the way it was meant to be – to better the lives of people living with HIV in Mozambique.

We all must jointly plan and develop a sustainable health program that is locally-owned and responsive to the needs of those who are infected and affected by HIV/AIDS.  We want to create an environment where civil society’s voice is heard and role is clear working in collaboration with the government, the donor community, and the private sector.  Without you, we believe an AIDS Free Mozambique will not be achieved nor be sustained.

The United States Government recognizes that civil society plays a crucial role in contributing to the delivery of essential care and services at the community level.  Your efforts help to support access, scale-up, quality, and the overall success of the health systems programs you will be discussing today.  You create, support, and enable the success of the program.

In the last year there have been exciting new developments in global vision and strategy responding to the HIV/AIDS epidemic.  UNAIDS has set a bold new vision with the new 90-90-90 targets and The World Health Organization has declared that EVERY country needs to adopt Universal Treatment meaning no matter where you live in the world every HIV+ person should have immediate access to treatment.  These are very bold goals and we will do all that we can to support the Government of Mozambique to reaching them. But it also means we must innovate and try new approaches to match these new objectives and we hope your feedback today will help us further explore what these could be.

Since my arrival, I have had the pleasure of traveling to Nampula and seeing firsthand the tireless efforts of community mobilizers delivering prevention messages or working with clinics to support care and treatment efforts. I have listened to leaders in your communities express their interest and desire to actively engage more with local governments.  I am truly humbled by your efforts and what we have accomplished together to date. I also recognize that there is still a long road ahead to achieve our goals.

Our technical experts are here today to share activities and priorities with you and to gain your input.  The team here will also discuss ways that, with your continued engagement with us, we can move forward through the COP planning and implementation process to achieve epidemic control in Mozambique.  We want to develop strong avenues of engagement with you and need your support moving forward.

Where there is room for improvement, we want to hear. If there are programs and interventions that have been successful, help us strategize on how we can continue to capitalize on their successes. Where there are gaps, let us collectively determine how we can best address them and mobilize available resources for high impact interventions.  Thank you for your participation, your leadership and continued commitment to an AIDS Free Mozambique.