Strategic Partnership. The dictionary tells us that partnership means “having a joint interest”. What a perfect phrase to describe the state of US-India relations in 2009. For we have joint interests across every area of human enterprise. Our governments and our citizens have built an energetic, optimistic partnership to confront the challenges to our planet and its people today and in the decades to come.
Several weeks ago I travelled to Chennai and visited the Government Hospital for Thoracic Medicine, where I saw President Obama’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) in action and made real in the lives of those living with HIV/AIDS. This hospital treats over 30,000 people living with HIV every year. It was a difficult but inspiring visit where I was privileged to meet many of the physicians and nurses caring for those whose lives have been affected by HIV/AIDS. And what touched me the most was the vibrant pediatric ward alive with the laughter and joy of children who would not be here today was it not for the treatment and support services provided by the government of India and the United States. They sang songs and handed me their works of art to admire.
On World AIDS Day 2009 (December 1), it is clear that we have made great strides in the global fight against AIDS. Just five years ago, only 40,000 people in India had access to antiretroviral treatment. I am gratified to report that, thanks to the efforts of so many local partners throughout the country and with the support of the American people through PEPFAR, we now provide access to free HIV treatment for more than 250,000 men, women, and children living with HIV/AIDS.
Globally, PEPFAR is the largest commitment to a single disease in history. Through PEPFAR, the US government and its partners are working in cooperation with the government of India to support India’s third National AIDS Control Plan, which runs from 2006 to 2011. Under PEPFAR, in the past five years alone, India has received more than $136 million to support an integrated HIV/AIDS prevention, treatment, and care programme.
The United States will place a renewed emphasis on partnering with India to build national HIV/AIDS response capacity. The US Mission in India is working hand-in-hand on enfranchising local partners in successful solutions to global issues, and we will continue to work together across all sectors of our relationship as you craft strategies and programmes to halt the spread of HIV/AIDS.
One HIV/AIDS programme alone will not defeat this disease. As part of the United States’ Global Health Initiative outlined by President Barack Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, PEPFAR will support India’s work to further integrate and expand access to other health care services, such as those that address tuberculosis, malaria, and maternal and child health, with HIV/AIDS programmes. We must also remember to ensure that the work we do addresses the human rights challenges that drive the spread of HIV. Through these efforts, more Indians will get the care they need, and we will build the strength of India’s health system for the future. The children I met at the Government Hospital for Thoracic Medicine deserve a future with access to the drugs and support services that keep them healthy and where they can play and laugh and grow safe in the knowledge that both governments will do everything possible to ensure their lives are as healthy as possible.
The US is committed to the fight against HIV/AIDS. On World AIDS Day 2009, we recommit ourselves to furthering our substantial achievements and reemphasise our continued commitment to India’s fight to halt the spread of AIDS and assist those living with HIV/AIDS.
(The writer is US ambassador to India)