Delegates to the 2016 World Aids Conference in Durban look at a display by the South African advocacy group, Section 27. Photo: AP

Johannesburg - The US President’s Emergency Plan for Aids Relief (Pepfar) in a statement on Monday said it was happy that the 21st International Aids Conference had returned to Africa after 16 years and it remained committed to ending Aids by 2030.

US Global Aids Coordinator and Special Representative for Global Health Diplomacy Deborah Birx said the conference’s return to the African continent was significant as it coincided with the 35th anniversary of the “first reported cases of Aids, a moment that would change the lives of millions of people around the globe”.

Birx said the US government’s “commitment to ending the Aids epidemic” could not be overstated as they were committed to realising the goal of achieving an “Aids-free generation in which no one is left behind in the US and around the world”.

She said this goal was critical in honouring the memory of “millions of people who lost their lives to Aids”. She said it was imperative that they finished the journey they started 35 years ago to give hope to the “millions more who we can still reach”.

Birx said that to consolidate efforts toward reaching this goal, Pepfar had invested US$84 million in partnership with Johnson & Johnson and ViiV Healthcare in a drive that would uplift adolescent girls and young women in several African countries.

She said out of this investment, US$40 million was “focused on keeping girls in secondary school, which dramatically reduces their vulnerability to HIV infection”.

Birx acknowledged the enormity of the work to “end Aids by 2030” as many people continue to lose their lives to HIV/Aids and were infected with the virus.

She said that former South African president Nelson Mandela’s words from the 2000 International Aids Conference still rang true. Mandela said: “In the face of the grave threat posed by HIV/Aids, we have to rise above our differences and combine our efforts to save our people. History will judge us harshly if we fail to do so now, and right now.”

African News Agency