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Remarks at the University Teaching Hospital Paediatric Centre of Excellence

posted 11 Jun 2011, 14:57 by Mpelembe   [ updated 11 Jun 2011, 14:59 ]
Hillary Rodham Clinton
Secretary of State
Lusaka, Zambia
June 11, 2011

SECRETARY CLINTON: Thank you very much, Master of Ceremonies. And let me begin by thanking everyone associated with this Paediatric Center of Excellence for the work you do every day and for the very warm welcome today. I want to thank Dr. Mbewe; Ambassador Eric Goosby from the United States Government, where he heads the PEPFAR program, he’s our Global AIDS Coordinator; Dr. Neil Zadalare of our Health and Human Services Department, one of the critical elements in our Global Health Initiative; and to all of the Americans who are here for this important occasion. And I especially wish to extend my greetings and respect to His Excellency, President Banga, and for all of the officials from the Zambian Government, representatives from the University Teaching Hospital, all members of the media, NGOs, and health communities. And so let me add, all protocols observed. (Laughter and applause.)

I am delighted to be with you and to have had a brief tour and explanation of the excellent work that is being done here at the Centre. The president and I met with very impressive doctors, medical staff, support staff. We saw firsthand the program that helps survivors of gender-based violence and the community approach that is being taken to that problem. And the president and I had the honor of meeting a young mother and her child who have benefited from the work you have done here, the mother being HIV-positive but getting medical care and treatment and following the regimen and now having a beautiful 11-month-old daughter who is HIV-negative.

This dedication marks an important day, certainly for Zambia and for the United States, but in particular for our partnership. We are aware that Zambia faces many health challenges, particular those affecting women and children. But we’re also very pleased that the Government of Zambia is working to improve health of the people across the country. For instance, Zambia’s partnership with PEPFAR has meant that 344,000 Zambians are receiving anti-retroviral treatment that gives them the chance to lead healthy lives, care for their families, and contribute to their country’s development.

This facility is further evidence of our shared commitment. The Ministry of Health – and I thank the minister for being here – plans to make the Paediatric Centre of Excellence the centerpiece of its efforts to tackle two deeply interrelated challenges, gender-based violence against women and girls, and the transmission of HIV from mothers to their children.

The United Nations has identified the elimination of pediatric AIDS as a global goal by 2015, and we have reached a crucial point around the world. That objective is within our grasp, and Zambia is ahead of many countries in fulfilling that goal. With renewed efforts and the involvement of all – governments, civil society, faith-based partners, medical experts and personnel, and people living with HIV – we can achieve this goal.

For our part, the United States has highlighted the importance of mothers’ treatment, and in particular of women and children’s health. We are dedicated to preventing mother-to-child transmission. That is part of President Obama’s Global Health Initiative. We contribute more than $300 million each year to help HIV-positive mothers protect their children from the virus. And earlier this week at the United Nations, Dr. Goosby, on behalf of our government, committed to an additional $75 million for the prevention of mother-to-child transmission as part of the global plan.

In recent years, Zambia has made enormous strides in its own efforts to eliminate mother-to-child transmission. Since 2006, Zambia has increased its HIV testing of pregnant women by more than 50 percent. And now, as I learned, 87 percent of all pregnant women are being tested for HIV.

But challenges still remain. Every year, some 80,000 pregnant women in Zambia test positive for HIV. It’s crucial that we work even harder together to help these women live and thrive and to make sure their babies are born (inaudible). President Banda recently set a bold goal, to call for the virtual elimination of mother-to-child transmission in this country by 2014. And Mr. President, the United States is eager to help Zambia reach the goal. I think it was moving to both the president and me to meet that young mother and her baby, and that image will stay in both of our minds as we attempt to do everything in our power to help Zambia eliminate mother-to-child transmission.

That’s why today I am pleased to announce an additional $15 million in PEPFAR funding for Zambia. (Applause.) These resources will help bring more medicine to more people who need it. It will help improve the facilities that mothers need throughout their pregnancy, such as the clinics where they see a midwife or an obstetrician, or the maternity units in hospitals like this one. We also had a very important discussion with the medical director, who himself is an OB/GYN, about how we can do more to assist those mothers who give birth at home.

This support is just one more way in which the United States Government is working as a partner with Zambia to make a difference in the lives of women and girls. We are collaborating on long-term, systemic changes that will help remove the economic, cultural, social, and legal barriers to health care services. And we are specifically targeting gender-based violence. It is at the root of so much of the ill health and disempowerment of women and girls, and it is directly related to HIV and AIDS.

This center, which offers services to young survivors of abuse and their families, is an example of the one-stop integrated care that families need. I also was very impressed that Zambia is moving toward smart cards. (Applause.) It’s called a care card. And Zambia is moving toward electronic medical records, something that I’ve worked on for more than a decade in my own country. So I may send some people here to see how it’s done. (Laughter.)

This dedication today is all about partnership. It shows the commitment of the government and people of Zambia to tackle some of the biggest challenges in health. Ignoring these challenges, as still, unfortunately, some leaders do, Mr. President, it doesn’t make them go away, it doesn’t cure anybody, it doesn’t help anybody live a better life, and it doesn’t help a country develop. So what this government is doing, what your leaders and your experts are doing, is so critical.

So although today we dedicate a facility, we are here not just because of the facility. We are here because we admire and support what the government and people of Zambia are doing. You can have the most beautiful facility in the world – and I’ve been to countries where I have visited beautiful facilities – but you don’t have the quality of expert medical care, you don’t have the government’s support, you don’t have the will of the people manifest.

So what’s important about this dedication – yes, we are proud to dedicate this facility and turn it over to the Government of Zambia, but we do so because we are confident that the Government of Zambia will continue doing the work that is making a difference in the lives of the people in this beautiful country.

Thank you all very much. (Applause.)