Stars and Ambassadors Come Together on Capitol Hill to Commit to HIV

By Michelle Betton | April 18, 2013

EGPAF Ambassadors Fortunata Kasege and Florida Mwesiga with Oscar-winning actress Charlize Theron.

EGPAF

In the nation’s capital of Washington, D.C., it can be difficult to get important people into one room to discuss one topic. But this morning, American politicians, representatives from international NGOs, and international celebrities gathered on Capitol Hill to discuss a topic that affects millions of people around the world: AIDS.

U.S. Global AIDS Coordinator Eric Goosby, UNAIDS president Michel Sidibé, Oscar-winning actress Charlize Theron, and EGPAF Foundation Ambassadors Fortunata Kasege and Florida Mwesiga were among the speakers at the “Together We Will End AIDS” breakfast briefing held at the Senate Visitor’s Center.

The briefing was attended by Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) and Sen. John Boozman(R-AR), South African Minister of Finance Pravin Jamnadas Gordhan, and Becton Dickinson CEO Vincent Forlenza.

“To achieve an AIDS-free generation, we must continue to invest in the fight to eliminate pediatric AIDS,” said EGPAF President and CEO Chip Lyons, EGPAF President and CEO, who was present at the briefing. “Ten years of U.S. leadership in the global HIV/AIDS response has led us to this unique moment, and I am pleased that many African nations are stepping up their commitments as they fight AIDS in their countries. There is still a lot of work to do to ensure that millions of children gain access to the medications they need to stay healthy, and mothers receive the necessary treatments to give birth to HIV-negative babies.”

Partnerships and commitment were the messages of the day. Partnerships between stakeholders, governments, and private organizations have played an integral role in the momentum towards creating a generation free of HIV, and several speakers mentioned how important it will be to continue working collaboratively to ensure that the goal of eliminating HIV is met.

“AIDS has been a truly bipartisan issue in this country,” said Sidibé. “We are seeing a change happening, but we should not be complacent.”

Goosby discussed PEPFAR's role in reaching HIV-positive people around the world, and noted that shared responsibility between the U.S. government, other national governments, and organizations working on the ground in the fight against AIDS would create lasting change for people affected by HIV.

Bringing a personal face to the issue of HIV was 15-year-old Foundation Ambassador Florida Mwesiga. She recounted the story of how her mother, Fortunata Kasege, discovered her HIV status, but worked to ensure that her daughter was born HIV-free.

“My mom is an incredible woman,” Florida said. “My mom continues to fight to ensure that mothers everywhere can experience the gift of an HIV-negative child.”

“I knew Elizabeth Glaser,” said House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi. She recounted hearing Glaser’s story in the early years of the HIV epidemic in the United States, and how Elizabeth’s dedication led to positive change on the issue of HIV.

Charlize Theron, founder of the youth-focused Africa Outreach Project, said that her foundation was doing its part to contribute to the fight against HIV, but that focus and attention on the issue needed to continue.

“Achieving the end of AIDS means that we all must be responsible,” said Theron.

During his remarks, Sidibé noted that international funding for HIV/AIDS have increased dramatically over the last decade, showing a positive commitment from governments, private companies, and donors to ensure the global elimination of HIV.

“AIDS has been one of the diseases that help us to know that if we are not inclusive, we fail,” said Sidibé.

Michelle Betton is Associate Communications Officer for the Foundation, based in Washington, D.C.