THE PRESIDENT: Good morning. This week, Congress voted to expand a vital program that is saving lives across the developing world Â“– the Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief, also known as PEPFAR. I thank members of Congress from both sides of the aisle for working with my Administration to pass this important bill, and I will be honored to sign it into law next week.
PEPFAR is the largest international health initiative dedicated to fighting a single disease in history. And it is a testament to the extraordinary compassion and generosity of the American people. When we first launched this program five-and-a-half years ago, the scourge of HIV/AIDS had cast a shadow over the continent of Africa. Only 50,000 people with AIDS in sub-Sahara Africa were receiving antiretroviral treatment. Today, PEPFAR is supporting treatment for nearly 1.7 million people in the region. PEPFAR has allowed nearly 200,000 African babies to be born HIV free. And this program is bringing hope to a continent in desperate need.
The new legislation that I will sign next week will build on this progress. We will expand access to lifesaving antiretroviral drugs. We will help prevent millions of new HIV infections from occurring. And we will also bolster our efforts to help developing nations combat other devastating diseases like malaria and tuberculosis.
Fighting disease is one part of America’s larger commitment to help struggling nations build more hopeful futures of freedom. Over the past seven years, we’ve learned how advancing the cause of freedom requires combating hopelessness. This is because the only way that the enemies of freedom can attract new recruits to their dark ideology is to exploit distress and despair. So as we help struggling nations achieve freedom from disease through programs like PEPFAR, we must also help them achieve freedom from corruption, freedom from poverty, freedom from hunger, and freedom from tyranny. And that is exactly what we’re doing.
America is using our foreign assistance to promote democracy and good government. We have more than doubled the federal budget for democracy and governance and human rights programs. And through the Millennium Challenge Account, we have transformed the way we deliver aid, so we can support developing nations that make important political and economic reforms.
America is promoting free trade and open investment. Over the long term, we know that trade and investment are the best ways to fight poverty, and build strong and prosperous societies. So we have expanded the African Growth and Opportunity Act to increase trade between America and Africa. We have put eleven new free trade agreements into effect since 2001. And we’re striving to make this the year that the world completes an ambitious Doha Round agreement, so we can tear down barriers to trade and investment around the world.
America is leading the fight against global hunger. This year, the United States has provided more than $1.8 billion in new funds to bolster global food security. We are the world’s largest provider of food aid, and we have proposed legislation that would transform the way we deliver this aid to promote greater self-reliance in developing nations.
America is leading the cause of human rights. Over the past seven years, we’ve spoken out against human rights abuses by tyrannical regimes like those in Iran and Syria, Cuba, Sudan, and Zimbabwe. We’ve spoken candidly about human rights with nations with whom America has good relations, such as Egypt and Saudi Arabia and China. And to ensure that our Nation continues to speak out for those who have no other voice, I recently issued a directive instructing all senior U.S. officials serving in undemocratic countries to maintain regular contact with political dissidents and democracy activists.
With all these steps, we’re helping defeat the forces of violent extremism by offering a more hopeful vision of freedom. And as this vision takes hold in more nations around the world, America will be safer here at home.
Thank you for listening.
White House Press Office