Remarks by U.S. Ambassador Natalie E. Brown at COP23 PEPFAR Partner and Stakeholder Strategic Retreat | February 22, 2023

Remarks by U.S. Ambassador Natalie E. Brown at COP23 PEPFAR Partner and Stakeholder Strategic Retreat

U.S. Embassy Kampala | February 22, 2023 (as prepared for delivery at Mestil Hotel in Kampala, Uganda)

Good morning to you all!  It is a pleasure to join you today as we collaboratively discuss key policy and programmatic updates, priorities for the Country Operational Plan 2023 (often referred to as COP23), and how Uganda will successfully implement the U.S. President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief – or PEPFAR’s – current strategy to support progress toward HIV epidemic control.  Thank you for making time to be with us for this COP23 partner and stakeholder co-planning strategic retreat.

This year marks PEPFAR’s 20th year of implementation, and despite the challenges of COVID-19 and the Ebola outbreak, we have managed to persevere and continue our work towards HIV epidemic control.  We were proud that our 20-year effort to control HIV ultimately had a positive impact on Uganda’s ability to weather these two public health challenges.  Through our collaboration with the Government of Uganda and implementing partners, I am happy to note that we continue to rethink our strategies, and we remain creative in adapting our programs to ensure continuity of services and long-term success.

The U. S. government is committed to working with the Government of Uganda, donors, communities, academia, and the many other stakeholders to ensure that gains made towards HIV epidemic control are not lost, and that we have accountability at all levels.  PEPFAR’s new 5-year strategy challenges us all — rather demands us — to accelerate the response to end the HIV/AIDS pandemic as a public health threat by 2030 while sustainably strengthening public health systems.

COP23.launch.talking.222Uganda is close to ending HIV/AIDS as a public health threat.  Over the past 20 years of PEPFAR, we have maintained a productive, collaborative relationship with national and subnational government partners, the Global Fund, UNAIDS, and other stakeholders.  I personally would like to thank our global partners and local stakeholders who are participating and contributing to the new strategic direction for COP23.

On the new strategic direction, it is important for all partners and stakeholders to note that COP23 reflects the first planning cycle of the new PEPFAR 5-year strategy.  This represents an important inflection point to increase commitment to in-country planning as we shift to a two-year COP planning cycle and use streamlined processes that are better aligned with current needs to ensure inclusive, data driven, accountable, and transparent planning.

The new strategy and planning process will help us push forward to achieve the 95/95/95 UNAIDS goals that are within sight.  To support this effort, the U.S. government will firmly uphold our guiding principles and code of conduct to:

  • Acknowledge that we do not always have the answers ourselves, and approach all our partners with deepest respect and trust in every process and interaction.
  • Strive for equitable treatment outcomes, both in the way that we and our partners operate, and the populations that we serve.
  • Effectively use resources and commit to being open and public with all critical information on our intentions, processes and programmatic results.
  • Orient our activities to the areas that will lead to the most progress towards ending the HIV/AIDS pandemic and strengthening health systems.
  • And, ensure that we are not just focused on reaching targets, but elevating the leadership of our partners, local communities, and country leadership to sustain the impact of our collective work.

I want to stress how crucial it is to ensure equity in HIV and TB service delivery as we plan for COP23 and beyond.  The LGBTQI+ community and female sex workers are among the populations frequently neglected and stigmatized across all levels of society.  If we want to end HIV as a public health threat by 2030, we cannot leave these fellow citizens behind.  We must include ALL individuals in our response and ensure they have equitable, safe access to services if we hope to achieve our goal.

This year we are celebrating 60 years of partnership between the United States and Uganda, and we are also commemorating our joint effort to control HIV/AIDS in Uganda over the past 20 years.  In so many areas – agriculture, accountability, education, tourism, the arts, academia, of course health, and so much more – we have and continue to work in partnership with Ugandans toward a better future, together.  Together, we will accelerate the path to respond and end the HIV/AIDS pandemic by 2030.   Thank you!