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Remarks at PEPFAR 20th Anniversary Event

What a great honor to be here this morning. And I want to start where Secretary Rice and President Bush began.

A little over a year ago, Madam Ambassador, I wore this blue and gold to an extraordinary NATO meeting where 30 countries spoke in solidarity in support of Ukraine. And then just a few short weeks after, in spite of all the efforts for peace and diplomacy, your country was invaded. And today, we mark that one year.

What we’re really discussing here with PEPFAR is the solidarity of the American people with the world, and so it is a theme that we are carrying forward, as President Bush just said. We can do PEPFAR. We can do PMI. We can do many things in the world, and we can support Ukraine. Thank you.

David, thank you for welcoming us all here today, and my thanks to the Bush Institute for organizing this event and the U.S. Institute of Peace for hosting us.

PEPFAR represents an enduring, bipartisan commitment to a world where HIV/AIDS is preventable; where this awful disease need not be a death sentence; where we move from memories of the days when friends with HIV had little hope to survive – some of my dearest friends – to today, when the miracle of modern medicine allows so many to thrive.

Twenty years ago, President Bush stood before Congress to launch that commitment “to turn the tide against AIDS” – to ignite a “work of mercy beyond all current international efforts” in the campaign to defeat this dangerous foe. It was a bold declaration with a unifying purpose: to deploy the full reach of American leadership, diplomacy, and compassion to save lives.

So let me say thank you to President Bush for the vision to make PEPFAR a priority and a reality, and let me thank First Lady Laura Bush for bringing her powerful, clear voice to this cause and to this mission.

Twenty years later, President Biden stood at the same rostrum to highlight how PEPFAR had “transform[ed] the global fight against HIV/AIDS.” He pointed to this extraordinary program as proof that “we can still do big things.”

Two speeches separated by two decades. Yet what’s happened in between is anything but rhetorical. For millions across Africa, the Caribbean, and the world, the impact is nothing short of remarkable.

The facts and figures tell a stunning tale: a $15 billion initial investment that’s turned into more than $100 billion and counting to combat HIV/AIDS. Over 25 million lives saved. More than 20 million people on HIV treatment. New infections reduced by 42 percent since their peak in 2004. AIDS-related deaths down by 68 percent in that same timeframe.

Now, we see a world on the path to ending HIV/AIDS as a global health threat by the end of this decade – an objective we share with our partner countries, not as a false hope, not as a faint dream, but as an achievable goal.

That is the power that PEPFAR has given us.

But what matters most can be found not in the numbers, but the names – not in the statistics, but the stories: the lives forever altered for the better; the chapters rewritten; the futures restored thanks to the tools provided by PEPFAR to help prevent, treat, and control this disease.

Look at one part of this effort, the Determined, Resilient, Empowered, AIDS-free, Mentored, and Safe – the DREAMS program – which is designed to address key factors that make adolescent girls and young women particularly vulnerable to HIV.

Look at Ruth, a young mother from Kenya, who shared that DREAMS enabled her to finish her education and ultimately secure a steady job with her local government.

Look at Michelle, from Zimbabwe, who completed this program and became a DREAMS Ambassador and mentor herself, supporting other young women in staying HIV-free and accessing reproductive health services.

Look at the millions of young people – we’ve heard those stories this morning; thank you to you both – millions just like Ruth and Michelle who have received help and hope, and who have emerged as leaders in their own communities in the battle against HIV/AIDS.

Our progress is truly mind-blowing. Yet all of us know there’s far more to do to accelerate decreases in HIV infections globally, and to reverse rates of new infections anywhere they are on the rise.

This is why PEPFAR is so essential: it equips us with the architecture to adapt to the threat of HIV/AIDS and prepare and deal with public health dangers yet to come. We have seen that in the battle against the most recent pandemic, where the platforms built for PEPFAR were critical – critical – in the fight against COVID.

That cause has earned this transformative initiative bipartisan support in Congress from the start, to this day. That mission will remain its promise and its purpose.

With the legacy of President Bush, President Kikwete, and Secretary Rice; with the leadership of President Biden, Secretary Blinken, Ambassador Nkengasong – Dr. John, as we call him – and our State Department team; with persistence and perseverance of partners and practitioners on the front lines: PEPFAR will remain a “work of mercy.”

It will continue to show us what it means to “do big things.” It will stand tall as a light of compassion, care, and collaboration worldwide – and it will keep arming us with the tools and the wherewithal to fulfill our most basic human commitment: to preserve health and to save lives.

So thank you all.

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