The 2023 Excellence in HIV/AIDS Awards

On World AIDS Day 2023, the Global AIDS Policy Partnership (GAPP) recognized Senator Lindsey Graham and Representative Bonnie Watson-Coleman with the second annual Excellence in HIV/AIDS Award. In addition to each of GAPP’s three co-chairs, Ambassador John Nkengasong, Harold Phillips, Director of the White House Office of National AIDS Policy, and Jesse Milan, President and CEO of AIDS Unite also gave remarks at an event honoring these two champions in the global and domestic response to HIV/AIDS.

on this World AIDS Day, we are celebrating the power of community. I first want to acknowledge the incredible community of people living with and affected by HIV in the United States and around the world who’s collective action and advocacy in the past and continuing today is responsible in large part for the incredible gains we are making towards ending AIDS.

There is no question that this has been a pretty tough year. We have hit unexpected bumps in the road. But these difficulties have only served to draw us tighter together as a community and to strengthen our resolve.

Our coalition is diverse by design. But the mission of ending HIV as a public health threat is one that unites us all. The way we came together this year, aligning behind one consistent message, and relaying that message — quite loudly — over and over seems reminiscent to me of the early days of the fight against HIV. On the global side we continue to call for a clean 5 year reauthorization of the PEPFAR program and a robustly funded global AIDS response. On the US side we reject proposed deep cuts to the global response and critical HIV research and is powering advances to end AIDS.

 Consider the incredible life-saving progress we’ve made over the past four decades. With that legacy to draw upon, I have absolutely no doubt that we will prevail against the current headwinds.

In addition to the work of activists, advocates, faith-based organizations, and other civil society groups, we must also recognize our incredible Congressional champions. We will be honoring two of them in just a few moments. But first, I want to thank the Congressional HIV/AIDS Caucus, Congresswoman Barbara Lee, and her wonderful staff for having us here today. Our domestic and global HIV responses have remained so strong for so long in large part thanks to Congresswoman Lee’s remarkable and unwavering leadership. Any World AIDS Day agenda would be remiss without acknowledging her many contributions to the HIV/AIDS response.

As we considered this year’s Excellence in Global HIV/AIDS Award, there was no more worthy recipient than Senator Lindsey Graham. In his role on the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee for State, Foreign Operations, and Related Programs, Senator Graham has long advocated for a strong HIV response in the United States and around the world. He has been a stalwart supporter of the U.S.’s contribution to the Global Fund and a champion of the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief.

Having traveled many times to both Global Fund and PEPFAR sites, Senator Graham has seen first-hand the life-saving impact of these critical programs and has played a unique role, rallying both likely and unlikely allies to support them. Not only has he been highly effective in establishing support among current members of Congress, he has also made enormous strides toward building the next generation of global health champions.

Whether speaking with members of the military, the faith community, business leaders, or government representatives in the U.S. and around the world, Senator Graham has been an exceptional advocate. He understands how effective global health programs support national security goals and helps to connect those dots for others. But more than that, he understands that it is the duty of the U.S. to contribute to the fight against diseases like HIV and AIDS.

He, along with several of his colleagues, recently wrote in The Hill that “The American people have shown time and again that they are capable of extraordinary generosity. In few places is this more evident than in our efforts to combat HIV/AIDS through PEPFAR.” Directing that generosity and compassion into successful global health programs is only possible through the strong and effective leadership of policy makers.

Thank you, Senator Graham, for your generosity, compassion, and leadership. We are proud to recognize you with this year’s Excellent in HIV and AIDS award.

On Ambassador John Nkengasong

Ambassador John Nkengasong is a committed scientist and clinician who has dedicated his career to public health. He is a true global health champion, focused on building equity in global and domestic health.

In the wake of COVID-19, Ambassador Nkengasong provided a steady, guiding hand as PEPFAR sought to address the toll the pandemic took, both in general and, more specifically, to the HIV response. His wealth of experience in infectious disease mitigation and control in Africa offers unrivaled insight into the challenges in reaching those not yet receiving HIV services. His work at the onset of the HIV pandemic demonstrates his deep understanding of how to prevent and treat HIV. His more recent work to halt the spread of COVID-19 across Africa offers invaluable knowledge to guide PEPFAR’s course in the coming years.

As the U.S. representative to the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis, and Malaria, Ambassador Nkengasong served as the face of the Administration, helping to ensure a successful Seventh Replenishment and demonstrating that the U.S. remains committed to ending HIV as a public health threat.

Ambassador Nkengasong is a vital voice both within the Biden Administration and with international partners. His strong leadership is critical to stewarding PEPFAR and to our collective goal of ending AIDS.

On Jesse Milan

Jesse Milan is President and CEO of AIDS United, a national organization focused on ending the HIV epidemic in the U.S. through grantmaking, policy and advocacy, and capacity building. Jesse is chair emeritus and long-time board officer of the Black AIDS Institute, a Senior Fellow at both Atlas Research and the Altarum Institute, and a Fulbright Senior Specialist in Global HIV. In addition, he has worked as the HIV Subject Matter Expert consultant on multiple federal projects. Today, however, Jesse is her