AllAfrica.com, 21 October 2002, Ambassador Hume Statement on the U.S Award to the Perinatal HIV Research Unit of the WITS Health Consortium, Chris Baragwanath Hospita, 

By U.S. Department of State

Washington, DC

Remarks by Ambassador Cameron Hume at the ceremony marking the announcement of the U.S. National Institutes of Health's award to the Perinatal HIV Research Unit of the WITS Health Consortium, Chris Baragwanath Hospital, Soweto, October 21, 2002

South Africa has more HIV positive individuals than any other country and the United States is prepared to help in any way possible to address this health disaster. Without broader access to treatment and more effective prevention, nine million South Africans are likely to die from this epidemic by 2015 - leaving behind more than two million orphans. In this decade alone, life expectancy in South Africa will drop from 59 to 41 years. The lessons we learn in Gauteng and the Western Cape can help us turn this crisis around.

Fortunately, South Africa also has tools and resources to be able to respond effectively to this catastrophic epidemic. The institutions, which we are here to recognize today, are among the leaders in this respect. Outstanding scientists stand ready to expand our understanding of HIV in this region. Energetic non-governmental organizations are working hard to prevent HIV transmission and provide community-based care. Many government health officials are moving to expand HIV/AIDS services. In all these efforts, the United States stands ready to be a full and active partner.

The grant we have gathered to launch is one example of U.S. partnership. Over the next five years it will provide over $21 million to support outstanding work in South Africa. This, the second large grant made to South African investigators under the CIPRA (Comprehensive International Program of Research on AIDS) program of the National Institutes of Health, was awarded only after a stiff competitive process of peer review. It represents an investment in research that will better inform our HIV and TB management and treatment efforts particularly in family and community settings in Africa. Also it is an unusual commitment to work with a consortium of universities, including Witwatersrand, Cape Town and Stellenbosch, and with the National Health Laboratory Service. These CIPRA grants are setting a new standard for collaboration in biomedical research and improved clinical care. This is a true investment in the future; an investment in building hope.

In addition to this grant, overall HIV/AIDS spending by the U.S. government has increased from $14.2 billion in fiscal year 2001 to a proposed $16.1 billion in fiscal year 2003. That includes an increase in international funding from $726 million to $1.3 billion over the same period. The President's NIH budget request for fiscal year 2003 includes $2.8 billion for HIV research - a 9.9% increase over fiscal year 2002. Funding for AIDS vaccine research has increased by 185 percent. With this grant, South Africa is even better positioned to compete successfully for a share of this scientific support.

Through international contributions the U.S. also is confronting the epidemic with countries that share our concern and our interest in aggressive, effective action. President Bush made the first pledge of $200 million to the Global Fund Against HIV/AIDS, TB and Malaria a year ago, before the fund was even created. Since then, the U.S. commitment to the Fund has risen to $500 million. We are very pleased that South Africa will received two highly praised awards from the Global Fund - awarded based, again, on a competitive peer review. In implementing these awards, South Africa will be providing an example for others in southern Africa to follow. South Africa also will be doing the most important thing, saving lives and preventing infections.

With respect to our cooperation with South Africa, I am pleased to note that four US agencies provide most of the funding. In FY2001 USAID spent approximately $10 million on HIV/AIDS related activities in South Africa. In FY2002 USAID will spend about $15 million and the planning figure for FY03 is $20 million for HIV/AIDS. In FY2001 the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) spent approximately $3.7 million and it anticipated obligating $4 million in FY 2002 and $4.5 million in 2003. In FY 2001, NIH funded 34 grants, fellowships and studies that involved South African researchers at a total cost of approximately $7 million. This amount is expected to increase in 2002 by at least $8 million, part of which is this grant. The Department of Defence support is about $750,000 per year.

Finally I would note that just three months ago President Bush announced a new $500 million International Mother and Child HIV Prevention Initiative, designed to prevent HIV transmission from mothers to their children. In those countries that choose to participate, this program is expected to reach 6 million women a year, targeting a reduction of transmission by 40 percent within five years. To achieve this we will all have to work together with strong leadership at all levels and with unflagging energy.

Clearly, today's CIPRA is the next step in our expanding partnership to help the people of South Africa. It demonstrates that we are committed to a long fight against this virus and a permanent friendship among our citizens. You are facing a health crisis of unprecedented social, economic and political impact. The U.S. Government, foundations, non-governmental organizations and academic institutions are all prepared to be your allies in this war. Congratulations to you James, and all your colleagues for successfully competing for and winning this important grant and for launching this new and important collaboration - A Comprehensive AIDS Research Program to Safeguard the Household. We hope your work will help demonstrate that adults and children, families and communities can receive advanced HIV/AIDS care in primary care settings on a sustainable basis. If this is the direction of the future, our families and citizens - young and old - will live longer and healthier lives, lives that are full of hope. The task is challenging, but know you have many allies.

And, now, I would like formally to present the NIH Notice of Grant Award, the document that commits the National Institutes of Health to five years of funding and collaborative partnership under a cooperative agreement. (We direct deposit the money these days....but this tells you it is coming and how we expect you to use it!).