Remarks by Professor Michel Kazatchkine, Executive Director of the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria

by Allison Wilbur on September 15, 2009

November 12, 2009
Opening of the Quilt Exhibition
United Nations
Salle des Pas Perdus

Michel Kazatchkine, Executive Director, The Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tubercilosis and Malaria.

Michel Kazatchkine, Executive Director, The Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tubercilosis and Malaria. (Photo by Eric Bridiers, U.S. Mission)

Director-General,Chargé d’Affaires Doug Griffiths, Honorable Ambassadors,
Ladies and Gentlemen,

Before I begin I would like to acknowledge and welcome Congresswoman Barbara Lee. Barbara has been a true friend to the Global Fund from the very early days and we owe her a great deal of thanks for her longstanding support both for the Global Fund and the work it is supporting in 140 countries around the world.

This is a wonderful exhibition because it really symbolizes the transition we have made in recent years from despair in the face of disease to the extraordinary hope that has been brought to millions of people around the world.

In the fight against AIDS, quilts have played a historic and emotional role, beginning with the initiative of Cleve Jones in San Francisco in 1985, when the American AIDS quilt began to be constructed from panels bearing the names and mementos of people who had died from AIDS. The rapidly growing quilt quickly became a formidable monument to the despair, stigma and fear that dominated the AIDS pandemic in the United States, Europe and many other countries at that time. Today, the US AIDS quilt contains more than 46,000 names and weighs 54 tons.

Around us here tonight, we have 16 quilts made by American quilters that really set a different tone. They do not represent young lives lost, but lives being saved. And they symbolize the humanity, care and generosity of the American people in their bold commitment to addressing the major diseases around the world.

When the AIDS quilt was first conceived, there were no drugs against AIDS. In 1996, the last time the US quilt was displayed in its entirety in Washington, antiretroviral drugs were new and only accessible in rich countries.

Today, just a decade later, more than four million people in developing countries – including the world’s poorest countries – have access to these drugs; two million through programs supported by the Global Fund and just under two million through the U.S. Government’s AIDS program, PEPFAR. Prevention interventions are available to tens of millions of people.

And the momentum we have seen in the fight against AIDS has strengthened our efforts to fight tuberculosis, malaria and vaccine-preventable diseases, as well.

By conservative estimates, programs supported by the Global Fund have saved 4.5 million lives in just six years and continue to do so at a rate of 3000 people a day. That means that every day, 3000 people who otherwise would have died can continue to care for their children and be productive members of their communities.

The United States is by far the largest donor to the Global Fund, providing close to 30% of the Fund’s resources, and the US works closely with the Global Fund in most areas of the world. We are tremendously grateful for and proud of this partnership, including our close partnership with PEPFAR. In fact I have just come from our board meeting in Ethiopia where I was very pleased to welcome the new head of PEPFAR, Ambassador Eric Goosby, to the US seat on the Board for the first time.

I hope you will take the time to read the artist’s statements that accompany the quilts, as they are reflections of why many of us are here in this room tonight. As one quilter notes:

“Hand in Hand implies that we are all affected by these global health threats; we are all in this together. It takes the world: Everyone contributing, to whatever degree they are able, their talents, resources, determination and commitment.”

In other words, as I often say, neither governments, nor multilateral agencies, nor local communities can do it alone. It is only through a global response that we can fight global epidemics. And the Global Fund, in partnership with the US, other donor governments, civil society and the private sector, is a wonderful example of what can be achieved when everyone comes together with a common goal.

My warm thanks to Sergei Ordzhonikidze, Director-General of the United Nations Office at Geneva for co-hosting the exhibition.

My sincere appreciation to Douglas Griffiths, Chargé d’Affaires of the U.S. Mission, for making the exhibition possible, and to Dick and Allison Wilbur, the driving forces behind this exhibition, to everyone at the U.S. Mission and the Global Fund staff who have come together in a truly collaborative effort to make the exhibition possible.

Finally, my thanks to the quilt artists who have generously donated their work. Their sentiments of hope as to what more can be achieved in global health will resonate not only within these walls, but around the U.S. as the exhibit travels in the coming year.

Thank you very much.

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