Applying Science to Strengthen and Improve Systems (ASSIST)

Remarks by Ambassador Dogu
October 7, 2016

Good morning.

It is an honor be with you for the closing of USAID’s “Applying Science to Strengthen and Improve Systems,” known also as ASSIST. Since1998, USAID has been a main donor providing assistance on HIV in Central America, collaborating closely with the governments, the private sector, the universities, and the NGOs. USAID has invested approximately $25 million dollars for the prevention of HIV in Nicaragua.

The United States President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) has supported more than 30 countries to deal with this epidemic. Globally, we have made progress, reducing the new infections and AIDS related deaths, and increased the number of people with access to anti-retroviral treatments. Since two years ago, the governments of the world agreed to the 90-90-90 goal for the year 2020, in which 90% of the HIV positive persons know their diagnosis, 90% of those diagnosed can access the treatment, and that 90% of the treated patients have an undetectable viral load.

In the past year, the World Health Organization recommended that all the diagnosed cases to receive treatments. However, a large portion of affected people still do not have such access. Despite these advances, work still to be done across the world is guaranteeing the human rights of the affected population, since stigma and discrimination impede the access to the health services. In this sense, the U.S. Global AIDS Coordinator affirms that “the protection for human rights is the base for reaching the global goal to end the epidemic by 2030.”

Nicaragua has advanced toward this direction by approving the Law 820, which guarantees the integrated attention to the people living with HIV. Likewise, it presents a national strategic plan that coordinates all the stakeholders’ efforts to combat the epidemic. USAID contributes to these national efforts with its various projects. Especially, ASSIST facilitated the inclusion of HIV as a theme in the curriculum formation for the health careers. It increased the professors’ and students’ knowledge, reduced the stigma and discrimination, and incorporated the gender focus and the quality management of the services.

Only when the people who live with HIV have access to quality health services, without fear of stigma and discrimination, they can complete the treatment, suppress the virus in the body, and interrupt the transmission of the disease. The results achieved with ASSIST are visible. For example, we heard about a doctor who graduates from BICU university in Bluefields, who now works in the health clinic, treats HIV positive patients, and trains others to reduce stigma and discrimination. On the other side, the NGOs that treat the key populations are important actors in the national response.

ASSIST strengthened these organizations to improve the quality and the access to the community services that they offer. Given the great success achieved in Nicaragua, other Central American countries benefited from the best practices that were developed. I want to acknowledge the universities and NGOs for the impact achieved. Now both sectors have the commitment to continue improving their learning and share what they have learned with other actors in the country and in the region. I would like to also thank the technical team of the project and to the vice president of URC, Dr. Rashad Massoud, for the excellent work that ASSIST has done in the country.

Thank you.