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Impact of America’s Soft Power: Pink Ribbon Red Ribbon

Posted by On September 30, 2013
Impact of America’s Soft Power: Pink Ribbon Red Ribbon Last week, I had the privilege of addressing a group of young professionals at the World Affairs Council in Houston, Texas on the “Impact of America’s Soft Power: Pink Ribbon Red Ribbon.” It is amazing that many Americans know so little about the impact this nation is making on individuals, children, women and families of other nations of the world through global health. A decade ago, President George W. Bush launched a $15 billion five-year war on AIDS through the US President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR)—the largest international initiative ever directed towards a single disease. This investment has continued under the Obama administration. Over the past decade, PEPFAR and related efforts have improved access to HIV/AIDS prevention, treatment and care services in developing countries and had impressive results:
  • Mother to child transmission:  Reduced 30%
  • New HIV infections worldwide: Reduced 19%
  • AIDS-related deaths: Reduced 26%*
  • With persistent focus, the risk of mother to child transmission has dropped from 35%
In June 2013, the one-millionth baby was born HIV-free due to PEPFAR-supported prevention of mother-to-child transmission of HIV programs – The risk of transmission has been reduced from 35% to 5%cent through targeted administration of antiretrovirals to pregnant women. With persistent focus, we may one day have an AIDS-free generation. Globally, new HIV infections have declined nearly 19 percent over the past decade, and AIDS-related mortality has decreased by 26 percent since its peak in 2005. In sub-Saharan Africa, progress has been even more marked, with new infections down by 33 percent over the past decade, and AIDS-related mortality declining by 32 percent since its peak in 2005. By 2012, PEPFAR was responsible for directly supporting nearly two-thirds of the estimated 8 million people in low and middle-income countries on antiretroviral treatment. Eleven out of the 13 countries that are at a programmatic tipping point, where the annual increase in adults on treatment is greater than the number of annual new adult infections, are from sub-Saharan Africa. I visited two of these countries in the past year, and top Ministry of Health officials were testifying to the significant improvements to life and productivity due to the U.S. government support to their HIV programs. A decade ago, they said, many offices would be empty because many had died, were too sick to work, or were away at funeral services. Cemeteries became so full that new grounds had to be opened up to bury the dead. In these countries, life expectancy has improved from 30-35 years a decade ago to 60-65 years. Employees are now fully back at work and offices are functional; there are fewer funerals resulting in less disruptions to work and productivity. This is evidence of America’s soft power in Africa. Pink Ribbon Red Ribbon is leveraging these successful platforms to combat cervical and breast cancer in Africa and Latin America. Like PEPFAR, Pink Ribbon Red Ribbon hopes to save many women’s lives through prevention, early detection and adequate treatment. The initiative is currently engaged in Botswana, Tanzania and Zambia. To date, we have supported Botswana and Zambia to provide two doses of Human Papilloma Virus (HPV) vaccination to young school girls to prevent cervical cancer. We are working with the governments to screen and treat women early to prevent progression to cancer. In Zambia, over 50,000 women have been screened between December 2011 and July 2013 with support from Pink Ribbon Red Ribbon. Botswana has screened over 1000 women between July 2012 and July 2013. It is strengthening its pathology services for secondary prevention and improving its health information systems to track patients’ medical history across levels of care. These interventions,supported principally by the American people, are giving hope to individuals, families and communities. Mothers can live to care and provide for their children and families. And economies of nations can be revived. This is a celebration of the generosity of the American people, and the impact that a nation can have on the development and survival of other nations.