Remarks by U.S. Ambassador Richard R. Verma on World AIDS Day Commemoration Event in American Center Library

(As Prepared for Delivery)

Good afternoon and welcome.  It’s great to see you all here today.

Each year on December first, we mark World AIDS Day to honor those who are living with HIV, those who have lost their lives to AIDS, and the caregivers, families, friends and communities who support them.  We also celebrate our successes and recommit to an AIDS-free generation.

On this World AIDS Day 2015, imagine if we had everything we need – the tools, science, and shared goals – to reduce by 90 percent the number of women, men, and children newly infected by HIV.  Imagine the creation of an AIDS-free generation that eliminates HIV as a public health threat and where no one is left behind.  Such a future, once inconceivable, is now possible.  But we must seize the opportunity to reach it.

This is the moment for us to focus and implement programs that enable control of the HIV/AIDS epidemic.  Over the last 15 years, we achieved remarkable results working together toward the Millennium Development Goals.  Today, we must stand together and demonstrate our collective resolve to meet the challenge we identified when we agreed to the new Global Goals: to end the AIDS epidemic by 2030.

In India, we celebrate the remarkable expansion of prevention, care, and treatment services which has been possible through the leadership and partnership of the Government of India, the commitment of activists, and the tireless efforts of healthcare workers.

The United States Government, through the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief, or PEPFAR, is proud to partner with India. India has seen a drop in new HIV infections by over 50% between 2000 and 2011, a 38% decline in AIDS-related deaths between 2005 and 2013, and increased access to free lifesaving HIV treatment to over 800,000 Indians.  Global declines in new infections and AIDS-related deaths are the result of affordable, quality generic HIV drugs made in India.

Despite tremendous progress, there is still much to do to close the gap between those who have access to services and those who don’t.  After South Africa and Nigeria, India has the third highest number of people living with HIV in the world – an estimated 2.1 million, of which 39% are women and 7% are children.  Stigma and discrimination also remain a reality for many people infected with HIV.  As a result, many people do not get tested and therefore still do not know they are infected with HIV.

Earlier this year, President Obama set a bold course for PEPFAR by announcing new HIV prevention and treatment targets for 2016 and 2017.  By the end of 2017, PEPFAR will support 12.9 million people with life-saving HIV treatment.

But many more people will need treatment – UNAIDS estimated in 2014 that there were still twenty-two million people living with HIV who were not on ART.

India shares the same global challenges and opportunities to create an AIDS-free generation. With strong partnerships and collective efforts, an AIDS-free India is within reach.  This World AIDS Day, the United States Government reaffirms our partnership with India to provide high impact interventions and reaching the most vulnerable populations.

Achieving an AIDS-free India requires action from each of us, and will not be easy.  To reach this goal, we all must share responsibility and resolve to strengthen our efforts.  We all know what we must do to achieve epidemic control.  Working in partnership, we have come a very long way since the darkest days of the epidemic, but the work is far from done.

We can support our families, friends and neighbors who may be at risk, encouraging HIV testing and counseling and sharing information about free services available throughout the country.

It is our hope that the information sharing and discussion here today, results in your being better informed about HIV/AIDS, so that you can be a part of India’s response to the HIV epidemic and reaching an AIDS-free India.  This aim is within our reach – but we must continue working together to make it happen, and the time to act is now.