The Time to Act is Now to Achieve an AIDS-Free Generation

Amb Mark B. Childress
Amb Mark B. Childress
Mark Childress, U.S. Ambassador to the United Republic of Tanzania

By U.S. Ambassador Mark Childress | December 1, 2015

A year ago on the occasion of World AIDS Day, I wrote about working towards an AIDS-free generation in Tanzania. Since then, we have together made important strides in that direction, targeting resources and activities at the places where they are most needed throughout the country. More must be done, however. If we do not increase our movement along this path, new infections will continue, resulting in a growing population of Tanzanians living with HIV that will undermine Tanzania’s development and economic growth.

The next five years represent a critical window for ending the global AIDS epidemic by 2030. President Obama has set a bold course for the U.S. President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR), announcing that, by the end of 2017, PEPFAR will support 12.9 million people with life-saving HIV treatment and provide 13 million male circumcisions worldwide. Moreover, working with government, civil society, and private sector stakeholders, PEPFAR will strive to reduce HIV incidence by 40 percent among young women and girls in the hardest hit areas of sub-Saharan Africa.

In Tanzania over the next year, we aim to provide lifesaving antiretroviral treatment for more than 840,000 men, women and children, and will contribute more than $430 million towards the HIV response, which will support a range of activities including prevention, care, treatment, impact mitigation, health systems strengthening and research. We will continue to do this work in cooperation with the ongoing efforts and contributions by the Global Fund, UNAIDS, other development partners and the private sector to end this epidemic.

Assisting the people of Tanzania who are living with, and most at risk for acquiring HIV, needs immediate action and sustainable commitment. Tanzanians deserve a health system on which they can rely for the long term. This will require the Government of Tanzania to increase domestic financial investments from both public and private sector sources, and to target resources strategically for the people and places where they are needed most. In this light, I commend President Magufuli for his November 20 remarks to Parliament and the nation when he stressed the need to increase government budget allocations for medicines and the systems which supply them.

In 2015, the Government of Tanzania took an important step forward when it established the AIDS Trust Fund. This, however, is just the first step and the Fund remains very minimally financed with an allocation of just $1.5 million. Significantly greater and continuing contributions from the government of Tanzania to the Trust Fund are essential not only to address immediate needs but also to ensure predictable and sustainable financing to care for those living with HIV and gain control over this epidemic. In addition, long-term financial sustainability requires greater community engagement with civil society organizations and local leaders, as well as stronger partnerships with the private sector.

The United States Government remains committed to working hand in hand with our partners in our commitment to an AIDS-free generation. World AIDS Day provides an opportunity to invite and challenge everyone – government leaders, bilateral and multilateral development partners, civil society, the private sector, and others – to join in solidarity to ensure that no one is left behind. Achieving our goals will not be easy. To reach them, we all must share responsibility and resolve to strengthen our efforts. The time to act is now.