CHENNAI: Good morning, ladies and gentlemen. I am delighted to be here today to participate in the launch of the Partnerships Beyond Borders initiative.
Let me first start by expressing my appreciation to the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FICCI), and the South-To-South HIV/AIDS Resource Exchange (SHARE), for conceiving this joint initiative.
Over the last 50 years, the United States and India have worked together to improve health programs and to achieve real success in saving lives in India and around the globe. Since the first case of HIV/AIDS was reported in June 1981, an estimated 36 million people have died due to HIV/AIDS globally.
The United States President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR), introduced in 2003, is the largest commitment in history by any nation to combat a single disease. As of last September, PEPFAR supports life-saving antiretroviral treatment for 6.7 million men, women, and children worldwide, and is helping to prevent millions of new infections.
In particular, I would like to emphasize two important health partnerships between our countries. The first is the Child Survival Call to Action program. Globally, nearly 6.6 million children under the age of five die every year. More than half of these early childhood deaths are due to conditions that can be easily prevented or treated – such as pneumonia, pre-term birth complications, diarrhea, malaria, and birth asphyxia – with access to simple, affordable interventions.
The United States and India are committed to ending preventable child and maternal deaths. Two years ago, the U.S. and India joined together with UNICEF, Ethiopia, and other development partners to launch the Global Call to Action, a commitment to end preventable deaths of children under five by the year 2035. Since then, the Government of India has demonstrated determination and leadership by establishing robust systems at district, state, and national levels to plan, implement, and monitor programs focused on reproductive, maternal, newborn, child, and adolescent health.
The second health partnership that I would like to mention is in HIV/AIDS. The U.S. and India have actively worked together for the last 23 years to halt and reverse the spread of the HIV epidemic. In fact, it is particularly fitting that we are holding this launch event in Chennai because Tamil Nadu was the focal point for our first bilateral partnership on HIV. In 1992, the U.S. Government supported the AIDS Prevention and Control Project, or APAC, which contributed greatly to the reversal of the HIV/AIDS epidemic in Tamil Nadu. I have great confidence that very soon our collective efforts will enable India to create an AIDS-Free generation.
India’s success in reducing new HIV infections by 57 percent shows what a country is capable of when using all the tools at its disposal. India’s widespread support for HIV/AIDS programs, its emphasis on evidence-based and community-centered programs, the institutional arrangements for quality assurance and capacity building, and the country’s commitment to use local resources to ensure universal access to HIV/AIDS prevention, treatment, and care services to its population demonstrate strong country stewardship.
India’s programs are recognized globally in this regard and the Indian success story has generated substantial interest in other Asian and African countries. The SHARE Project is using a multi-pronged approach for knowledge transfer and adoption between countries. The Project has established strategic partnerships with a range of well-regarded Indian organizations, such as the Christian Medical College of Vellore to support a five-week fellowship program focused on prevention and key population interventions with high-risk groups.
I am excited that the SHARE Project is partnering with the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FICCI) to develop private sector partnerships between Indian and African companies. Through the SHARE Project, many African countries are visiting India to learn from its experience and to adopt similar, successful programs in their countries. I am encouraged that Ghana, Nigeria, Zambia, and Angola have already partnered in this initiative, and more countries will join this global program. More than 25 senior policy makers, program planners, pharmaceutical association representatives, NGOs and community based organizations, from Ghana, Angola, and Zambia, have already visited India in the last two months, to exchange information on their respective approaches and to learn from India’s best practices in HIV/AIDS programs.
I understand that this is the first time a dedicated effort is being undertaken to engage both Indian and African companies to work together to combat HIV/AIDS. In the United States, in India, and in many African countries, the private sector is a vital player, and their active engagement and support for health and development programs will certainly help address global health challenges and priorities.
Partnerships Beyond Borders is a bold and exciting effort, focusing on fostering partnerships between Indian and African companies to jointly combat HIV/AIDS. I wish SHARE and FICCI teams the greatest success in this initiative. I would like to end with an African proverb, “if you want to go fast, go alone, but if you want to go far, go together”.
I wish you much success. Thank you.