I just returned from a visit to three African nations, where I saw encouraging gains in the fight against HIV. In these countries, the U.S. President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) is enabling countries to take leadership of the fight against HIV for their people.
In Johannesburg, South Africa, I was part of a U.S. delegation that met with representatives from medical schools from a dozen sub-Saharan African countries participating in the African-led, U.S.-supported Medical Education Partnership Initiative (MEPI) inaugural meeting. These schools are part of a collaboration that will lead the way in transforming and enhancing medical education within their countries and building a network across Africa. By doing so, we will be supporting an increase in both the quantity and quality of professional health care workers in the region.
Through PEPFAR, the U.S. will provide about $130 million in MEPI grants that are awarded directly to African institutions, including two in South Africa. By providing grants directly to African institutions and supporting their partnerships with U.S. and international medical schools and universities, we support their leadership in developing programs that will train and retain future health care leaders, and tailoring education to meet the needs of the populations they serve. In some cases, the opportunities for medical faculty to continue their professional development and engage in research are powerful incentives to remain in their countries and promote excellence in medical education and practice. Dr. Francis Collins, Director of the U.S. National Institutes of Health (NIH), joined me at this MEPI meeting to highlight NIH's contribution through additional linked awards that will help support new professionals and faculty to develop expertise in research.
Dr. Collins and I visited a community site in Durban, South Africa where the CAPRISA trial of a vaginal microbicide for HIV prevention was conducted. The visit highlighted the critical contributions African researchers are making in advancing the science of HIV prevention. Through investments in medical education and local research capacity, African institutions will continue to provide sound leadership in preparing the next generation of clinicians and leaders in public health within Africa.
PEPFAR's support for laboratory systems has also led to tangible results. In Ethiopia, I joined seven African Ministers of Health for the launch of the African Society for Laboratory Medicine (ASLM). As another organization led by Africans and supported by the U.S. through PEPFAR, ASLM advances professional laboratory medicine practice, science, systems, and networks on the continent. These laboratory services are vital to support quality medical care with correct diagnoses and monitoring, preventive medicine, surveillance and disease control. The ASLM will not only advance the processes for accreditation of laboratories, but also serve as a forum for communication across laboratories, biomedical scientists and clinicians, the medical community, public health officials and policy makers to enhance the effectiveness of laboratory services and science.
To support their efforts, the ASLM is launching an international peer-reviewed journal, the African Journal of Laboratory Medicine, which will highlight advances in the roles of laboratories in clinical care and public health efforts. It will also provide much-needed South-to-South communication in the profession of laboratory medicine. As part of our health systems strengthening work, PEPFAR is committed to supporting African leadership to build strong laboratories that perform to international standards and provide prompt diagnoses and clinical management support for patients.
In Botswana, I met with officials from the Government of Botswana and civil society, and visited programs we jointly support that are making striking progress in addressing the AIDS epidemic and other health challenges. I saw how PEPFAR's impact has been enhanced through the Supply Chain Management System (SCMS), which enhances Botswana's supply chain and distribution for medicines and health commodities, advancing reliable and cost-effective practices.
By strengthening African institutions within countries, we are contributing to long-term, sustainable capacity building that will allow our partner countries to deliver care to their people for years to come. I am inspired by the growing leadership of our African counterparts. I want the American people to know that our efforts to support countries in taking the lead in the fight against global AIDS are bearing fruit today — and will continue to do so as we move forward.