Your Excellency, the Right Honourable Prime Minister,
Honourable Minister of Health,
Principal Secretary for Health,
Your Excellency, the US Ambassador,
Representatives of the International Development Community,
Representatives of Civil Society Organizations (CSOs),
Ladies and gentlemen…
I am honored to join you this morning for the launch of the National HIV Prevention Policy. As the country with the highest rate of HIV in the world, Eswatini has made significant efforts in the last years to turn around its epidemic with improved access to HIV testing services and the provision of free antiretroviral treatment to those who need it.
However, high levels of HIV stigma and discrimination still remain major barriers to people accessing HIV prevention services. Besides, women and adolescent girls are disproportionately affected by the country’s HIV epidemic.
It is important to work toward behavioral change with “100% safe sex” by consistent condom use, delay of sexual debut. Awareness campaigns should increase in media, in schools, in small-group community meetings, and other targeted communication methods. We must target vulnerable high-risk groups, women and adolescent girls, with prevention campaigns.
To decrease HIV vulnerability in Eswatini, we need an integrated approach as there are a number of social and structural factors that clearly increase a person’s vulnerability to HIV. Keeping young people in the education and helping them complete school have a significant bearing on risk to new HIV infections and pregnancy among adolescent girls and young women in the country. Education and economic empowerment is therefore essential to eliminate HIV in Eswatini.
The EU remains committed to developing health in Eswatini and eliminating HIV by 2022 as envisioned by the government. The EU has been a strong supporter of the Global Fund since its creation to fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria in 2002. Up to last year, the European Union and the 27 individual Member States together have financed the Global Fund to an amount of 21.6 billion EUR. This amounts to an average of 1.3 billion EUR per year, which makes the EU+27 the biggest donor to the Global Fund.
Besides, the EU was the first donor to announce a pledge for the Global Fund’s Fifth Replenishment. It pledged €475 million for 2017-2019, a 28 percent increase over the previous period. This year, the EU announced a record contribution of a further EUR 550 million. In its approach, the EU focuses on equitable and accessible health care, sustainability of health systems, human rights, women and girls, and private sector engagement.
The EU strives to mainstream HIV/AIDS awareness and social protection in all EU funded development projects as a good practice to enhance prevention, testing and adherence to treatment. In addition, a recent project has been funded to facilitate a dialogue between medical staff and patients in the country with the aim to improve satisfaction at local health clinics. This project improved accessibility and satisfaction at health clinics. It resulted in adjusting the opening hours to the patients' needs, improving sanitation and the relationship between medical staff and patients, and establishing new health programmes.
Despite progress being made, there is still a lot to do. I welcome the initiative and on behalf of the EU I would like to express my full support for the National HIV Prevention Policy. The EU welcomes the fact that Eswatini takes ownership and we also encourage the government to increase domestic funding to fight HIV, TB and Malaria. It is important to remember that the enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of health is one of the fundamental rights of every human being without distinction of race, religion, political beliefs, economic or social condition. The right to health for all people also includes that everyone should have access to the health services they need, when and where they need them, without suffering any financial hardship.
I thank you!