Ambassador James W. Brewster
The theme of previous World AIDS Days has reflected the challenges of overcoming a relentless, invisible foe. Last year’s theme reached to the essence of the struggle against HIV/AIDS: “Get to Zero,” with zero new infections, zero discrimination against persons living with HIV, and zero AIDS-related deaths. This year’s theme orients us on how to do this.
The AIDS-free Generation, as envisioned by President Barack Obama, represents our nation’s commitment to work with partners world wide and the Dominican Government to reach these zero goals. Zero new infections means that prevention programs must be effective and target the most vulnerable groups.
Zero discrimination against persons living with HIV speaks to the rights and respect that all members of the society deserve. Persons who suffer from other illnesses are not dismissed from their jobs or denied health care because of their health condition; persons living with HIV should not be either. But they frequently are, in clear violation of the Dominican AIDS Law of 2011. They have families, needs, and ambitions, like all men and women. They should not suffer the discrimination that they encounter daily. We can all help fix this problem.
To get to zero AIDS-related deaths, AIDS medicines (called ARVs) need to be accessible and inexpensive. Persons on ARV treatment can and do live normal lives; they can work and support their families, enjoy their children, and watch them grow into active, productive adults. Through ARVs and the retention of patients in treatment programs, we can reduce to zero the number of AIDS-related deaths.
The US Government has partnered with the Dominican National Response for over 25 years, to reduce the impact of HIV/AIDS on the Dominican society. Our current assistance program, called PEPFAR, which in 2013 contributed more than DR$ 600 million, continues to work in a number of areas and together we have achieved excellent results: over 96,000 pregnant women tested for HIV; over 24,000 persons living with HIV on ARV treatment; over 138,000 persons from vulnerable populations reached with prevention education and support messages. The National Response is indeed on the way to achieving a generation free of HIV/AIDS.
But like any foe, if we drop our guard, it will return stronger than ever. So we must continue to focus where the need is greatest, reach those individuals at highest risk, provide testing services and prevention messages, ensure access to treatment and care for those living with HIV, humane supportive care to them and their families and retain them to ensure viral suppression. On this World AIDS Day, the United States government and our PEPFAR program reiterate our commitment to continue working with the National Response and the Dominican society, so that through effective partnerships and the appropriate focus, together we will achieve the cherished goal of a generation free of HIV/AIDS.