Statement by Ambassador Susan E. Rice, U.S. Permanent Representative to the United Nations, at a Panel Commemorating the 10th Anniversary of the UN International Symposium on Children Orphaned by HIV/AIDS

Susan E. Rice
U.S. Permanent Representative to the United Nations 
U.S. Mission to the United Nations 
New York, NY
November 30, 2009


Thank you all very much for being here. It’s an honor to be able to join in this very important event. I’m particularly grateful to the leadership of UNAIDS, UNICEF, and the National Black Leadership Commission on AIDS. On behalf of the United States, let me extend my profound gratitude for all that you do every day to help save the most vulnerable victims of the AIDS epidemic: the children and orphans whose lives are all too often cut short or changed forever by a disease that we can and we must fight.

The United States is particularly concerned about the more than 14 million children who have lost one or both parents to HIV/AIDS. These and other vulnerable children face higher risks of psychological distress, economic hardship, exploitation, human trafficking—and HIV infection. Girls in the developing world are at particular risk. So the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief offers targeted support and care to these orphans and vulnerable children through a range of programs, including training for caregivers, supporting access to education, economic aid, food and nutritional support, legal aid, medical care, psychological and emotional care, and other types of social and material support. As the numbers of orphans and vulnerable children continues to grow, PEPFAR is urgently scaling up its efforts, particularly in its 15 focus countries in Africa, Asia, and the Caribbean. In fiscal year 2008, PEPFAR provided $312 million in funding to support orphans and vulnerable children in its focus countries—almost 10 percent of program funding. We do so out of a deep-seated belief that all of our children should be able to dream without limits—and that none, none of our children are expendable.

Tomorrow, we will mark a day of commemoration and resolve. With your permission, I would like to continue briefly to speak about the global challenge we all face.

On World AIDS Day, the United States will stand together with our partners around the world, united in our determination to provide care, to provide treatment, and to provide hope. New medications, exciting scientific advances, a slowly declining death rate, and growing awareness give important reasons for hope. But for all the progress and heroism we have seen in the fight against HIV/AIDS, the battle is far, far from won. We still face a global epidemic that touches all of our countries—from the 25 million people living with the disease in Africa to the more than 1 million Americans who live with HIV/AIDS. Fully 7 percent of the residents of my hometown, Washington, DC, between the ages of 40 and 49, my age group, now live with HIV/AIDS. This is a disease that devastates communities and pays no heed to borders.

Tackling this epidemic at home requires far more aggressive approaches than the United States has used in the past—an effort that involves not only the federal government but also state and local governments, community organizations, and houses of worship. So the Obama Administration is developing a national HIV/AIDS strategy to establish the priorities we need to combat this devastating epidemic and to bolster our domestic response—a strategy that will reduce the incidence of HIV, improve access to care, and help eliminate HIV-related health disparities. We have already secured the continuation of critical HIV/AIDS care and treatment services. And President Obama has moved swiftly to ensure that visitors to this great and generous nation are not marginalized or discriminated against because of their HIV status.  

The United States is also determined to be a global leader in this global battle against disease, ignorance, stigma, and fear. We will continue to work for even greater cooperation and coordination among civil society groups, member states, the United Nations, and other key actors. The United States is committed to doing its part and building on the successes of previous administrations. In 2003, President George W. Bush created PEPFAR—the largest international health initiative in history dedicated to a specific disease. Since its inception, more than 2 million AIDS patients around the world have been provided with antiretroviral treatment; mother-to-child transmission of the virus has been prevented in more than 15 million pregnancies; and more than 4 million orphans and other vulnerable children affected by HIV/AIDS have received care. In the 2009 federal budget, close to $6.5 billion was allocated to PEPFAR. In 2010, that amount will be more than $6.65 billion.

But we are also working to build on PEPFAR’s success by crafting an integrated approach to global health for a world that is being knit closer together by the day. The United States is determined to find comprehensive and collaborative approaches to strengthen public health capacities worldwide. Improving health systems globally requires the creation of virtuous cycles: the doctors and nurses who can fight the scourge of AIDS will also be better equipped to combat malaria, tuberculosis, pneumonia, and other deadly diseases. We must not just help deliver doses; we must help build critical systems.

Our commitment to fighting HIV/AIDS and boosting the quality of global public health arises out of both American interests and American values. We understand that poverty, public health, and security are deeply linked. We understand that pandemics can spread around the globe with alarming speed. We understand that widespread illness and poor health can destabilize whole regions. And we understand that our common security depends on investing in our common humanity.

In an age of rising interdependence, we must all embrace our responsibilities. As President Obama noted before the General Assembly in September, the United States has set aside $63 billion to carry forward the fight against HIV/AIDS, to end deaths from tuberculosis and malaria, to eradicate polio, and to strengthen public health systems. We must all do more to help rush life-saving drugs to AIDS patients, to help communities prevent the spread of HIV, to help educate citizens about testing, and to provide better housing and more compassionate care for the patients who are most ill.

No nation can wall itself off from the global health challenges or even the broader challenges of the 21st century, and no nation can overcome them on its own. We have no time to lose. We have no lives we can afford to spare. Ladies and gentlemen, I look forward to continuing our life-saving work together. As President Obama has said, our challenge is to keep fighting each and every day—until we eliminate this disease from the face of the Earth.

Thank you all.


PRN: 2009/289