Leaders in the Global Fight Against HIV/AIDS Announce New Commitment to Fast-Track End of AIDS Epidemic in One of World’s Most Severely Afflicted Regions Colin Farrell, The Elizabeth Taylor AIDS Foundation, and STOPAIDS Host a Gathering of Top Advocates and Influencers at the Elizabeth Taylor “Grit and Glamour” Exhibit in London London – 13 October, 2015: The Elizabeth Taylor AIDS Foundation (ETAF) STOPAIDS, and Actor Colin Farrell hosted an event at Getty Images Gallery last night to announce a unified commitment to achieving the UNAIDS 90-90-90 goal in Malawi’s Mulanje District. The ambitious yet achievable 90-90-90 target conceived by UNAIDS calls for rapid scale-up of proven HIV interventions so that by 2020, 90% of people living with HIV are diagnosed, 90% of those diagnosed begin treatment, and 90% on treatment worldwide reach viral suppression. Targeting the hardest-hit, least supported and most difficult-to-reach communities is vital to reach this goal. As part of the global push to fast-track the end of the AIDS epidemic, ETAF, STOPAIDS, and allied organizations called for additional funding and services to achieve 90-90-90 in Malawi’s rural southern Mulanje District. Mulanje is a remote area with inadequate health infrastructure, extreme poverty, and an adult HIV prevalence of 17% – approximately 70,000 individuals living with HIV – making it one of the worst afflicted regions in the world. The extraordinary efforts of healthcare workers and the Malawi Ministry of Health, supported by many organizations and funders working in country including ETAF and the Global AIDS Interfaith Alliance (GAIA), have contributed to a reduction in HIV prevalence from 20% to 17% in the Mulanje District since 2004. Now, ETAF is challenging and calling for more partners to join a coordinated new surge of mutually reinforcing strategies to achieve 90-90-90 in Mulanje District under the leadership of the District Health Office. The new Elizabeth Taylor Grit and Glamour photo exhibit at the Getty Images Gallery served as the backdrop at the event, featuring images that spanned decades of her career as an actress and activist. Colin Farrell opened the evening welcoming guests and honoring the late Elizabeth Taylor noting, “three weeks ago marked the 30th anniversary that Dame Elizabeth began fighting the then new epidemic—AIDS.” He went on to share with guests that it was Ms. Taylor’s idea to implement a mobile health system in Mulanje, specifically because of the chronic lack of access to healthcare and the great need for HIV/AIDS testing, treatment, and prevention methods in the region. Speakers including Lord McConnell of Glenscorrodale, First Minister of Scotland 2001-2007, and architect of the Scotland-Malawi Co-operation Agreement and Joel Goldman, Managing Director of ETAF went on to urge support for a united coalition to scale up testing and treatment funding and prevention programs in Mulanje District. Singer/songwriter and UNAIDS Goodwill Ambassador Annie Lennox closed the program, thanking the organizations in the room for their commitment to achieving the UNAIDS 90-90-90 goal in Malawi. She said, “Worldwide, AIDS is the leading cause of death among women of reproductive age and the leading cause of adolescent death. Last year alone, 2 million people were newly infected with HIV – over a million people died and a quarter of a million babies were infected. As a woman, mother and global citizen, I am appalled by these horrific facts and as the years go by, I still don’t honestly think that the world has fully grasped the scale of the devastation AIDS has wreaked upon the lives of women, girls and young people in general.” After the event, Michel Sidibé, Executive Director of UNAIDS Activism shared his sentiments about the announcement. “Optimism and dedication have brought people living with HIV to the centre of the response, given a voice to the voiceless and enabled 15 million people to have access to lifesaving treatment. I am inspired to see so many countries and partners, like The Elizabeth Taylor Foundation, uniting around UNAIDS Fast-Track targets to ensure that together we end the AIDS epidemic by 2030,” said Sidibé. Speaking at the event, Lord McConnell said, “It’s great to see increasing political momentum behind HIV / AIDS, but just because we’re travelling in the right direction doesn’t mean we can take our foot off the pedal.” Joel Goldman concluded by saying, “The tide of the HIV / AIDS epidemic is turning. In Malawi and other countries, deaths are down, prevalence is falling, and new infections are reducing. But now it’s time for a knockout punch – and we all need to work together to achieve it.” Guests in attendance included: Second Secretary of Malawi Kondwani Munthali; Cornelius Baker, PEPFAR’s Acting Deputy Coordinator for Affected Populations and Civil Society Leadership; Colin Farrell; Annie Lennox; Mike Podmore, Director, STOPAIDS; Lord McConnell of Glenscorrodale; Joel Goldman, Managing Director, The Elizabeth Taylor AIDS Foundation; Tim Mendelson, co-trustee for the Elizabeth Taylor Trust and Officer of The Elizabeth Taylor AIDS Foundation; and more Annie’s speech from “The Grit and the Glamour” exhibition last night with the Elizabeth Taylor AIDS Foundation at the Getty Images Gallery.
MY FIRST DIRECT INTRODUCTION TO HIV/AIDS, OVER A DECADE AGO IN SOUTH AFRICA, WAS WHEN I WAS INVITED TO TAKE PART IN A SPECIAL CONCERT TO LAUNCH NELSON MANDELA’S HIV AIDS FOUNDATION – 46664.THE FOLLOWING DAY ALL THE MUSICIANS WENT TO ROBBEN ISLAND WITH MANDELA, WHERE HE HELD AN INTERNATIONAL PRESS CONFERENCE, SENDING OUT A GLOBAL APPEAL LETTING EVERYONE KNOW IN UNEQUIVOCAL TERMS THAT THERE WAS A VIRTUAL GENOCIDE TAKING PLACE IN HIS COUNTRY, WITH WOMEN AND CHILDREN AS THE FRONTLINE VICTIMS….WITH THE WORLD’S HIGHEST RATE OF INFECTION (THERE WERE 2,000 HIV/AIDS RELATED DEATHS IN SOUTH AFRICA EVERY DAY AT THAT TIME) THERE WAS NO EFFECTIVE GOVERNMENT RESPONSE TO THE PANDEMIC.WITH LACK OF ACCESS TO LIFE SAVING TREATMENT, COUPLED WITH DESPERATELY FAILING HEALTH CARE SYSTEMS – STIGMA -SILENCE AND DENIAL ALL UNDERMINED EFFORTS TO DEAL WITH THIS CATASTROPHIC SITUATION.WHEN I REALISED THE ENORMITY OF WHAT WAS ACTUALLY TAKING PLACE I BECAME A COMMITTED AIDS CAMPAIGNER AND THAT IS THE REASON WHY I’M HERE WITH YOU TONIGHT.I HAVE PERSONALLY WITNESSED THE RAVAGES OF AIDS IN HOSPITAL WARDS, CLINICS, ORPHANAGES AND RAPE CRISIS CENTRES – IN PEOPLE’S HOMES, IN TOWNSHIPS AND VILLAGES, IN REMOTE RURAL AREAS IN SOUTH AFRICA, UGANDA AND MALAWI.I HAVE WITNESSED THE HARROWING VISION OF ROW UPON ROW OF CEMETERY GRAVE SITES, WAITING TO RECEIVE THE SKELETAL REMAINS OF MEN, WOMEN AND CHILDREN – THE COUNTLESS VICTIMS OF AIDS.I HAVE SEEN THE DESPERATE VULNERABILITY OF SO CALLED CHILD HEADED HOUSEHOLDS, WHERE THE LIVES OF PARENTS AND EXTENDED FAMILY MEMBERS HAD BEEN WIPED OUT, LEAVING TRAUMATISED CHILDREN TO FEND FOR THEMSELVES.I HAVE ENCOUNTERED HIV POSITIVE WIDOWS OF HUSBANDS WHO HAD INFECTED THEM WITH THE VIRUS, STRUGGLING TO BRING UP THEIR CHILDREN ALONE – STIGMATISED AND MARGINALISED BY FAMILY AND SOCIETY.I HAVE ENCOUNTERED FRAIL AND AGEING GRANDMOTHERS, STALWARTLY TAKING CARE OF THEIR DECEASED CHILDREN’S CHILDREN, AT A TIME OF LIFE WHEN THEY THEMSELVES WERE THE ONES WHO NEEDED TO BE TAKEN CARE OF.IN WITNESSING THESE THINGS, I SAW HOW THE AIDS PANDEMIC COULD LEAVE THE SOCIAL AND ECONOMIC FABRIC OF ENTIRE COUNTRIES IN TATTERS. – WIPING OUT CROSS SECTIONS OF GENERATIONS –AND DECIMATING POPULATIONS IN THEIR PRIME….ALL THESE EXPERIENCES SHIFTED THE PARADIGM OF MY UNDERSTANDING OF HUMAN RIGHTS, ESPECIALLY REGARDING THE ISSUE OF UNIVERSAL ACCESS TO LIFE SUSTAINING TREATMENT………………AT THIS POINT IN TIME, SOUTH AFRICA AND THE BROADER SOUTH AFRICAN REGION STILL CONTINUES TO HAVE THE WORLD’S HIGHEST HIV PREVALENCE, BUT THERE HAS BEEN SIGNIFICANT PROGRESS AND MANY THINGS HAVE CHANGED.IN 2009, SOUTH AFRICAN LEADERSHIP DEMONSTRATED THEIR COMMITMENT TO TACKLING THE EPIDEMIC…We all know that effective leadership is what is absolutely needed to drive change!SINCE 2010, SOUTH AFRICA HAS LED THE LARGEST HIV TESTING CAMPAIGN EVER IN AFRICA.THIS HAS RESULTED IN A DOUBLING OF THE NUMBER OF PEOPLE ACCESSING TREATMENT, WHICH IN TURN HAS SIGNIFICANTLY INCREASED LIFE EXPECTANCY.MALAWI IS SHOWING IMPRESSIVE RESULTS.DUE TO BOLD LEADERSHIP AND AMBITIOUS TARGET SETTING THERE HAS BEEN OUTSTANDING PROGRESS IN ROLLING OUT ACCESS TO TREATMENT – WITH MORE THAN HALF THE PEOPLE IN NEED OF TREATMENT ACTUALLY RECEIVING IT.BOTSWANA, UGANDA AND NAMIBIA ARE ALL FOLLOWING MALAWI’S EXAMPLE, WITH THE INTRODUCTION AND IMPLEMENTATION OF INCLUSIVE TREATMENT OPTIONS.WITH REGARD TO THE REST OF THE WORLD…. UNAIDS SET OUT TO ENSURE THAT 15 MILLION PEOPLE WOULD BE ON TREATMENT BY THIS YEAR AND THEY HAVE REACHED THEIR GOAL.OVER THE LAST DECADE, AIDS RELATED DEATHS HAVE FALLEN BY ALMOST FIFTY PER CENT.SINCE THE YEAR 2000, THE NUMBER OF NEW INFECTIONS HAS REDUCED BY A THIRD.AND SINCE 2003, WHEN I FIRST VISITED SOUTH AFRICA, ANNUAL GLOBAL SPENDING IN LOW AND MIDDLE INCOME COUNTRIES ON HIV TREATMENT AND PREVENTION EFFORTS ARE ESTIMATED TO HAVE GONE FROM $6.3 BILLION UP TO 21.7 BILLION DOLLARS BY THE END OF THIS YEAR.THESE CHANGES DIDN’T COME ABOUT BY THEMSELVES – AS YOU ALL KNOW, IT HAS TAKEN YEARS OF CONCERTED EFFORT AND SOLIDARITY, SUSTAINED INVESTMENT AND DEDICATED ADVOCACY TO MAKE THIS HAPPEN.YOU SHOULD BE PROUDWE’VE MADE GREAT PROGRESS..BUT THE CHALLENGE WE FACE IS THAT WE’RE STILL ONLY HALFWAY THERE AND WE STILL HAVE A VERY LONG WAY TO GO.THIS PROBLEM HAS NOT GEON AWAY , WE’RE NOT AT THE FINISHING LINE YET, WE CAN ALMOST SEE IT BUT WE CANT STOP NOWWORLDWIDE – AIDS IS THE LEADING CAUSE OF DEATH AMONG WOMEN OF REPRODUCTIVE AGE AND THE LEADING CAUSE OF ADOLESCENT DEATH.LAST YEAR ALONE, 2 MILLION PEOPLE WERE NEWLY INFECTED WITH HIV – OVER A MILLION PEOPLE DIED AND NEARLY A QUARTER OF A MILLION BABIES WERE INFECTED.AS A WOMAN, A MOTHER AND A GLOBAL CITIZEN, I AM APPALLED BY THESE HORRIFIC FACTS AND AS THE YEARS GO BY, I STILL DON’T HONESTLY THINK THAT THE WORLD HAS FULLY GRASPED THE SCALE OF THE DEVASTATION AIDS HAS WREAKED UPON THE LIVES OF WOMEN, GIRLS AND YOUNG PEOPLE IN GENERAL ..UNAIDS BELIEVES WE HAVE THE ABILITY TO END THE AIDS EPIDEMIC ONCE AND FOR ALL IN OUR LIFETIME.THE KEY TO THIS ASPIRATION IS THE 90 – 90 – 90 CAMPAIGN, WHICH WAS LAUNCHED LAST YEAR AND WHICH COUNTRIES ALL OVER THE WORLD ARE STARTING TO EMBRACE.NINETY PER CENT TESTED!! – NINETY PER CENT TREATED!! – NINETY PER CENT SUPPRESSED!!TO ACHIEVE THIS WE WILL NEED TO BE BOLD AND INNOVATIVE IN REACHING EVERYONE AT RISK WITH HIV TESTING – WE MUST ENSURE IMMEDIATE TREATMENT FOR EVERYONE WHO TESTS HIV POSITIVE AND MAKE SURE THAT THEY HAVE ACCESS TO THE SUPPORT SERVICES THEY NEED.MALAWI, BOTSWANA, UGANDA AND NAMIBIA ARE ALREADY NEARLY THERE AND MANY MORE COUNTRIES ARE WITHIN STRIKING DISTANCE….WE HAVE TO HELP THEM REACH THE TARGET!AIDS IS A SCOURGE THAT HAS CLAIMED MORE THAN 40 MILLION LIVES, LEAVING MILLIONS OF ORPHANED CHILDREN IN IT’S WAKE.TODAY IT IS IN OUR HANDS TO MAKE SURE THAT AIDS BECOMES A THING OF THE PAST.COUNTRIES ALL OVER THE WORLD MUST MOVE IMMEDIATELY TO ADOPT THE NEW WORLD HEALTH ORGANISATION’S GUIDELINES CALLING FOR IMMEDIATE HIV TREATMENT FOR ALL PEOPLE WHO TEST HIV POSITIVE.WE NEED MORE EFFECTIVE LEADERSHIP – AND MORE MONEY MUST BE DEDICATED TO THE 90-90-90 APPROACH.ABOVE ALL WE MUST CONTINUE TO FIGHT FOR THE HUMAN RIGHTS OF THE 37 MILLION PEOPLE WHO ARE CURRENTLY LIVING WITH HIV AND THE MANY MILLIONS MORE WHO WILL BECOME INFECTED WITH THE VIRUS IF WE DON’T TAKE EFFECTIVE ACTION …………………….WHEN WE STOOD IN SOLIDARITY WITH NELSON MANDELA OVER A DECADE AGO, HIV AND AIDS IN AFRICA WAS AN ABSOLUTE DEATH SENTENCE.A DECADE AGO WE COULDN’T EFFECTIVELY PREVENT A MOTHER FROM INFECTING HER CHILD WITH HIV…A DECADE AGO THERE WASN’T MONEY FOR TESTING OR TREATMENT OR PREVENTION EFFORTS….THINGS HAVE VASTLY IMPROVED SINCE THEN, BUT WE MUST ALL COLLECTIVELY COMMIT TO SCALING UP TESTING –TREATMENT AND PREVENTION, TO BRING THE SCOURGE OF HIV AND AIDS FINALLY TO AN END.ELIZABETH TAYLOR WAS A DEEPLY COMMITTED AND VISIONARY AIDS ACTIVIST.IF SHE WERE HERE WITH US TONIGHT, SHE WOULD ABSOLUTELY SET THE PLACE ON FIRE WITH HER PASSION ABOUT HIV AND AIDS.BUT DESPITE THE FACT THAT SHE’S NO LONGER WITH US PHYSICALLY, THE SPIRIT OF HER INSPIRATIONAL FLAME CARRIES ON BURNING AS BRIGHTLY NOW AS IT EVER DID.WE ARE VERY FORTUNATE TO BE ABLE TO CARRY THE TORCH SHE LIT THROUGH THE WORK OF THE FOUNDATION SHE ESTABLISHED.THANKS TO THE ELIZABETH TAYLOR FOUNDATION, MILLIONS OF MEN, WOMEN AND CHILDREN ARE ALIVE TODAY, LIVING FULL AND HEALTHY LIVES.THANK YOU FOR INVITING ME TO JOIN YOU TONIGHT.AS A UNAIDS GOODWILL AMBASSADOR, IT’S AN HONOUR AND PRIVILEGE TO SHARE THIS PLATFORM.AS ELIZABETH TAYLOR VOWED – I WON’T GIVE IN – I WON’T GIVE UP!WE MUST NOT GIVE IN – WE MUST NOT GIVE UP!”