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Elton John World News: Breakfast on The Hill

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Thursday 26 July 2012 @ 16:25 - GMT



South African Deputy President Kgalema Motlanthe greets Sir Elton during a Congressional Breakfast on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC, July 24

South African Deputy President Kgalema Motlanthe concluded his participation at the 19th International Aids Conference in Washington, DC on Tuesday hopeful that part of his mission - ensuring a continued partnership on HIV/Aids with the United States - has been achieved.

There have been concerns by South Africa and the developing world in general about the US administration's proposed cuts to the President's Emergency Plan for Aids Relief (Pepfar) and how this could negatively affect countries that are otherwise seeing national epidemics on the decline.

'Don't cut back on Pepfar'

Pepfar, initiated by former US president George Bush, is America's initiative to combat the global HIV/Aids epidemic. Since 2004, Pepfar has committed more than US$30-billion to funding for the Aids epidemic - by far the largest financial commitment by a single country in response to HIV/Aids worldwide.

With the help of Pepfar programmes, South Africa has managed to scale up its antiretroviral treatment, give HIV-positive individuals care and support, provide support to orphans and vulnerable children, offer services to HIV-positive pregnant women and prevent mother-to-child transmission of HIV.

"We have made the point that we think if the US were to pull back on its commitments to Pepfar, it would set many of us back by many decades to come," Motlanthe told the SA Government News Agency shortly before he left the US.

"Of course, we now leave it to the American people and leadership to respond. But we are hopeful."

Congressional Global Aids Breakfast

Earlier on Tuesday, Motlanthe addressed a Congressional Global Aids Breakfast at the US Capitol complex attended by US senators, congressmen and congresswomen, where he lauded Pepfar as the world's largest and most successful bilateral HIV/Aids programme.

He made the point that this critical moment of opportunity - when for the first time it is clear that humanity is making a significant dent on the epidemic - was not the time for America to pull back.

Leading US pastor Rick Warren was also there to throw his support behind Pepfar beneficiaries, telling members of Congress: "I can give you a thousand things from which to cut the budget, but please do not cut Pepfar."

'Finish this job' - Sir Elton John

The Deputy President's message was echoed by Sir Elton John, who urged members of Congress to keep US dollars flowing to the global effort to combat HIV/Aids.

"I beg the Senate to maintain its funding," Sir Elton said. "You are the country that everyone looks to. Do not take your foot off the accelerator, finish this job."

There was a light moment when Sir Elton departed from his prepared speech and remarked: "The feeling in this room today ... is like the great feeling of the sixties. It's so apparent there is such love in this room. There is no marijuana! Well I hope not, but if so, pass it around.

"But no, there's no need for anything like that. What we have here is the human spirit ... the power of people working together for good is an unstoppable force."

Sir Elton told the people who control the purse strings of the US: "What America does for its people makes it strong. What you do for others makes you great."

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