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Ambassador Randall Tobais: Press Briefing

Press Briefing


Ambassador Randall Tobias, U.S. Global AIDS Coordinator
Aboard Mrs. Bush's Plane
En route to Kigali, Rwanda
July 14, 2005

[1:00 pm local time]


AMBASSADOR TOBIAS: By way of a little background, in the President's 2003 State of the Union address, he announced a $15-billion, five-year program to focus on HIV/AIDS. It is the largest commitment ever made by any nation for addressing an international disease state.

We are focusing on programs in 123 countries around the world, but a special focus on 15 of those countries that together account for about 50% of the infections in the world. Twelve of those 15 countries are in Africa. So a major focus of our attention is in Africa.

The objectives of this program in five years are to get 2 million people on anti-retroviral drug treatment to save 7 million infections that otherwise would have occurred, and to provide care for 10 million people -- "care" defined as people who don't yet need drug treatment, people who are at the end of life, and, very importantly, orphans, who are just a huge, huge issue here.

To put the treatment number in some perspective, at the time the President made this announcement at the beginning of 2003, there were probably about 4.1 million people in sub-Saharan Africa who under ideal conditions would have been on drug therapy. Rather than 4.1 people being on treatment, the actual number was about 50,000. As of March of this year, we are supporting treatment for 235,000, and we're on a trajectory to reach the 2 million objective by the end of five years. The biggest obstacle is getting infrastructure built, and you have seen some indications of the problems.

But, as an example, Mozambique, one of the poorest countries in the world, has 18 million people and 650 doctors in the entire country. So the need to build clinics, to build health care staff and some of the management skills that are needed to manage the scale of these kinds of programs are all parts of what we're doing.

Congress appropriated $2.4 billion in the first year, 2004; $2.8 billion in the second year, 2005. We have asked for, and I expect to get, $3.2 billion in the third year. So we're on the trajectory to fully fund the $15 billion by the end - I'm sorry?

QUESTION: What was the request figure for 2006? I couldn't hear you.

AMBASSADOR TOBIAS: 2006 was $3.2 billion. So it's $2.4 billion, $2.8 billion, $3.2 billion, so that's on the trajectory to get to the $15 billion.

So what you hear referred to as the acronym PEPFAR, and you've heard that a lot I think on this trip, is the President's Emergency Plan for Aids Relief.

With that, I'd be happy to answer any questions.

QUESTION: The $15 billion, you expect it will be by when that you'll have it fully appropriated?

AMBASSADOR TOBIAS: The $15 billion? That will be by the end of 2008, which is the fifth year of the program. It began in fiscal year 2004.

QUESTION: Is any money going to be used to build clinics, as well? Or is it only - you talked about the list of what the money is going to be used for.

AMBASSADOR TOBIAS: Yes, we're building clinics, we're training doctors and nurses and lab technicians. The end game here has to be sustainability. We have to - this can't be about America doing this forever; it really needs to be about giving these countries the capabilities they need, the training the infrastructure to take over more and more responsibility themselves.

QUESTION: The question - if you say as of March of this year you're supporting treatment for 235,000 people -

AMBASSADOR TOBIAS: Yes.

QUESTION: In Africa, or throughout the world?

AMBASSADOR TOBIAS: That figure is throughout the world. It's 230,000 of those are in Africa. So it's essentially all of them.

QUESTION: So what's your plan for the following -

AMBASSADOR TOBIAS: The plan is to get to 2 million people by the end of the five years.

QUESTION: By 2008.

AMBASSADOR TOBIAS: By 2008. And we're very much on the trajectory to reach that. So I'm very pleased with the progress that everybody has made.

QUESTION: The 2 million people would be worldwide?

AMBASSADOR TOBIAS: The 2 million people are in the 15 focus countries, and those are 12 countries in Africa, plus Haiti and Guyana in the Caribbean, and Vietnam is the 15th focus country.

Thank you all.

ENDS


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