Good morning to all. It is a pleasure to be here today. A special thanks to Resident Coordinator of the United Nations System in Brazil Jorge Chediek for inviting me to participate in this important event. I would also like to recognize the participation of:
- Assistant Secretary General of the United Nations, Dr. Luiz Loures,
- UNAIDS Director in Brazil, Georgiana Braga,
- Director of the Ministry of Health’s Department of STD/AIDS, Dr Fabio Mesquita, and
- Goodwill Ambassador, Mateus Solano.
Our commitment has been supported through the (U.S.) President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) with a contribution of USD $1.7 billion in 2012 to the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, and $45 million of this was directed to UNAIDS.
The U.S. and Brazil have been at the vanguard of the HIV epidemic since it began in the 1980s. We are both recognized for making great strides in controlling HIV and caring for those affected by it.
The U.S. government has been, and continues to be, the largest contributor in the fight against HIV/AIDS.
The program supported the antiretroviral treatment for more than 5.1 million people; antiretroviral (ARV) drugs to prevent mother-to-child transmission of HIV and directly supported with the care of more than 15 million people.
And where HIV-related stigma, discrimination, inequality and violence persist, the global response to HIV will certainly fall short.
On a global scale, the efforts of governments, multilateral organizations, such as UNAIDS and WHO, civil society, non-profit organizations, and individuals have contributed to fewer infections, fewer deaths, and greater health for persons living with HIV.
However despite these successes, we are seeing a shift in the character of the HIV epidemic in a number of countries. New infections are increasing among vulnerable populations, particularly in men who have sex with men and among transgender people.
A significant contributor to this shift is stigma and discrimination.
If the proportion of men who have sex with men who report physical, psychological, or sexual violence is an indicator for discrimination, we see that in both the U.S. and Brazil, some 35% of these men report such actions against them.
We also have well documented scientific evidence demonstrating that structural factors, such as stigma, discrimination and violence based on sexual orientation and gender identity hinder access to health services.
To effectively respond to national epidemics where vulnerable populations make up the largest group at risk for HIV, the international public health community has begun to shift their approach.
PEPFAR, for example, modified its principles to include, “End[ing] stigma and discrimination against people living with HIV and key populations, improving their access to, and uptake of comprehensive HIV services.
UNAIDS has also invested itself in reaching the common of vision espoused in the campaign of achieving ‘Zero new HIV infections. Zero discrimination. Zero AIDS-related deaths’ by 2030
Likewise, the Brazilian Ministry of Health is focusing more on reaching and diagnosing difficult-to-reach vulnerable populations.
The US and Brazil are also supporting the fight against discrimination in other meaningful ways at the WHO.
For the first time in history, the health challenges faced by LGBT were debated at the WHO 2013 Executive Board Agenda. The topic was proposed by the United States and Thailand in partnership with Brazil, Norway, and South Africa.
We look forward to working with Brazil, UNAIDS, and other multilateral organizations and international partners in breaking down barriers to care while raising greater awareness of the diversity of gender.
The designation of Mr. Solano as the UNAIDS Goodwill Ambassador will go far towards achieving the UNAIDS vision of “Zero Discrimination.”
Mr. Solano’s talent, diplomatic background, and brave stance on the issues of gender identity–no less in front of the eyes of millions of Brazilian television viewers– will surely inspire many to view stigma and discrimination with different eyes.
Finally, through my presence here I’d like to reaffirm our support to the work of UNAIDS, and Brazil and the international community to improving the right to health and welfare, and the protection of human dignity among vulnerable populations.