Thompson Leads Largest-Ever Delegation Of Leaders To Assess HIV/AIDS Efforts And Needs In Africa
HHS Secretary Tommy G. Thompson plans to mark Dec. 1, World AIDS Day, leading an 80-person delegation on a six-day, four-nation mission to observe the impact of HIV/AIDS in sub-Saharan Africa.
Co-hosting Secretary Thompson's delegation will be Ambassador Randall L. Tobias, recently appointed U.S. Global AIDS Coordinator to oversee the $15 billion in funding over five years proposed by President Bush for assistance against global HIV/AIDS; and former Ambassador Richard Holbrooke, now president of the Global Business Coalition for HIV/AIDS.
The delegation includes U.S. and international health officials, members of Congress, and leaders from more than 40 faith-based organizations, private-sector groups and charitable organizations who will join Secretary Thompson in reviewing the impact of national and international responses to HIV/AIDS in Africa so far, and in assessing unmet needs and further steps that can be taken in treatment and prevention of the disease.
The Director-General of the World Health Organization, J.W. Lee, M.D.; the Executive Director of the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS, Peter Piot, M.D.; and the Executive Director of the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, Richard Feachem, Ph.D., will all also join Secretary Thompson in the delegation. Secretary Thompson is also chairman of the board of the Global Fund.
"On World AIDS Day, 2003, we need to focus special attention on that part of the globe that has been most devastated by the HIV/AIDS pandemic," Secretary Thompson said. "This is the largest and most diverse single mission of its kind, bringing leaders from across the spectrum to witness what AIDS is doing to Africa and what we can do to help Africa fight back. It is especially important that we are including private-sector leaders as well as health experts, faith leaders and Members of Congress to witness together, to confer together, and to consider the different roles we can each play in confronting this devastating plague."
Sen. Don Nickles (R-Okla.) and Rep. Dave Weldon (R-Fla.) will also accompany the delegation.
Among the leading U.S. health officials in the delegation will be Julie Gerberding, M.D., director of HHS' Centers for Disease Control and Prevention; Elias Zerhouni, M.D., director of HHS' National Institutes of Health; Anthony Fauci, director of NIH's National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases within HHS; Deborah Parham, Ph.D., Associate Administrator of HHS' Health Resources and Services Administration; and William Winkenwerder, M.D., assistant secretary for health at the Department of Defense.
Departing November 30 and returning December 7, the delegation will observe AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria treatment and prevention activities, both in urban and remote areas of four hard-hit nations: Kenya, Rwanda, Uganda and Zambia, plus a stopover in Cameroon.
In addition to witnessing the impact of the three diseases in Africa, the delegation will visit sites supported by President Bush's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief and by the Global Fund. The delegation will also see examples of existing public-private partnerships and discuss future plans for the private sector to engage in the fight against the diseases.
This is Secretary Thompson's second visit to observe HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria in Africa; he led his first delegation to the continent in April 2002. In addition, one previous HHS mission of this kind took place in 1991, led by then-HHS Secretary Louis W. Sullivan, M.D. Dr. Sullivan, now co-chair of the President's Advisory Committee on HIV/AIDS, will also accompany Secretary Thompson on this mission.
As the first HHS Secretary to mark World AIDS Day on the African continent, Secretary Thompson issued the following statement:
"On this year's World AIDS Day, each of us should think about what we can do to stem the tide of this globally threatening disease and turn it back.
"Both in the United States and worldwide, we need more volunteers to help care for the sick, to participate in public information and awareness campaigns, and to help spread the word on prevention and treatment. People need to know when they should be tested and should know their own HIV status. Our efforts must start with knowledge, because HIV/AIDS has no power over a well-informed person who makes safe, educated decisions regarding his or her health.
"Worldwide, over 40 million people are suffering from HIV, particularly in developing countries in Africa, and almost five million new infections have occurred in 2003 alone. The United States has an estimated 900,000 HIV-positive individuals, one-third of whom do not know they are infected.
"In response, the Department of Health and Human Services, in partnership with Ambassador Randall L. Tobias and his Office of the Global AIDS Coordinator, is expanding the fight against the pandemic on both the domestic and global fronts. President Bush has made an unprecedented commitment of funds to fight HIV/AIDS abroad.
"He has committed $15 billion over five years for his Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief, including $10 billion in new money, of which $1 billion is a multi-year pledge to the Global Fund to Fight HIV/AIDS, Tuberculosis, and Malaria. The United States has always been and remains the largest donor to the Global Fund, with a total pledge of over $1.6 billion, roughly 35 percent of all the resources promised to the organization.
"At home and abroad, HHS is increasing the support devoted to HIV/AIDS prevention and research. I am confident that our mission to Africa will help produce further results and help me bring back fresh ideas. And while I am in Africa, Surgeon General Richard Carmona will address HHS employees on the effects of the epidemic in the United States, and then represent the United States at an HIV/AIDS conference in Latin America.
"The Bush Administration spent a total of more than $16 billion last year on HIV/AIDS, and has asked for more than $18 billion this year for domestic and international AIDS programs. The Department of Health and Human Services supports a wide range of prevention, testing, treatment, and research programs, and is increasing its commitment to those agencies and initiatives that manage these programs, including the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention; the National Institutes of Health; and the Health Resources and Services Administration, which administers the Ryan White CARE Act.
"These combined efforts have provided treatment for the poor, research into medicines that lengthen and improve the lives of those infected, expanded prevention efforts, and spread the benefits of these programs to other countries, particularly those where the need is greatest.
"For more information, I invite Americans to call the HHS Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's National AIDS Hotline at 1-800-342-2437 or visit the Federal World AIDS Day Web page at www.omhrc.gov/worldaidsday."