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U.S. ambassador gives keynote address

Katie Perry | Monday, April 25, 2005

In describing the sheer magnitude of the international HIV/AIDS crisis, United States ambassador Randall Tobias employed a powerful metaphor to shed conceivability on one of the most pervasive – yet unimaginable – tragedies of the modern era.”Imagine what your reaction would be if you woke up one morning and heard on the radio that 20 Boeing 747 [airplanes] had crashed and all passengers were lost,” Tobias said in a keynote address at the Mendoza College of Business Sunday. “Now imagine you woke up the following morning and 20 more had crashed.”At a conference examining the health care of developing nations, the United States Global AIDS Coordinator called this hypothetical situation the “equivalent” of the current HIV/AIDS emergency facing the world. More than 8,000 people are lost everyday to the pandemic, but Tobias warned against describing the tragedy in terms of numbers alone.”They all have names and they all have individual circumstances,” Tobias said. “These are not statistics -these are individuals.”In July 2003, President Bush nominated the former CEO of such conglomerates as ATT International and Eli Lilly and Company to lead America’s global combat against HIV and AIDS. Since then, Tobias has transferred his success in the private sector to the realm of public service.Tobias said the president’s groundbreaking conclusion was that, in past years, worldwide response to the “emergency” has simply not been enough. In a recent meeting between the two men, Tobias said the president expressed his unmistakable desire to bring peace, freedom, justice and hope to the people of the world. Yet a daunting blockade to this goal is the HIV/AIDS emergency, which continues to spawn feelings of hopelessness across the globe.The president’s unprecedented plan in the fight against HIV/AIDS includes the allotment of $15 billion over five years to be spent on both the “infected and affected,” Tobias said. Programs to help both the victims and their families – namely orphaned and vulnerable children – have been implemented in more than 100 countries worldwide.Tobias cited “sustainability” as the greatest challenge to these efforts and emphasized the importance of helping host nations build the capacity to deliver their own support to HIV/AIDS victims in the future.”We have to provide the fish and the fishing poles,” Tobias said. “It has to be our goal to someday go home.”Although the Bush plan has “catalyzed an era of action,” Tobias said the reality is that countries in the gravest of predicaments are many years away from getting the pandemic under control.”We need to think of this as the first five years of a very long-term effort,” Tobias said. But despite the long road ahead, early strides have been made in the recent push to restrain the endemic disease. Just eight months into the president’s campaign, more than 155,000 individuals in 15 “target nations” obtained anti-retroviral drugs. Prior to this time only 50,000 had received treatment. “I think we’re off to a good start in the early days of what we’re doing,” Tobias said. “The success we are beginning to see is the best foundation for hope over the long term.”