Ambassador Kelly’s remarks to the media on the sidelines of the 3rd Annual Hepatitis C Technical Advisory Group Meeting (November 30)
Q-n about the program and its challenges
I think that two years ago Georgia embarked on really an extraordinary initiative and that is to eliminate, to be the first country in the world to eliminate Hepatitis C. I have just participated in the opening plenary for this important meeting to assess the implementation of this ambitious program and everyone agreed that such an effort to eliminate Hepatitis C would not be possible without a firm commitment of the Georgian Government, and that is, I think, the reason why we have a lot of optimism that this program will reach its goal: virtually eliminating Hepatitis C in Georgia by 2020.
Q-n about the challenges facing the Georgian government
I think the the biggest challenge that any country faces is getting people to get tested. In order to treat the disease, of course, people have to get tested and because there is a stigma attached to anyone with an infectious disease, I think there’s a lot of hesitancy among people to get tested. Like I said, we feel confident that with these new drugs and this treatment program people can be cured of Hepatitis C, but first people have to be tested. So, I think that is one of the biggest challenges. I am not a doctor, so I cannot really address the other technical challenges.
Q-n about the decision of the European Court of Human Rights regarding Vano Merabishvili
The United States is not a member of the European Court but we have, of course, some real interest in our partnership with Georgia and stability for Georgia. We think that the real priority for Georgia, and for any country, is respect for the rule of law. We will be following this case with great interest. But again, we are not members of the European Court so I’m not going to comment on what the next step should be after the decision of the European Court.
Q-n about Mikheil Saakashvili and rumors of the possibility of arrest
Well, I have not seen this report. I will just say that like Georgia, Ukraine is an important partner of the United States and United States has great investment in Ukraine, in seeing Ukraine succeed as a democracy. I would just say that I have a lot of faith in our partners in Ukraine, that the rule of law will be respected, all the rights of individuals are respected and, of course, there will be due process for anyone who comes into the legal system, but beyond that, I think, that is about all I am going to say right now. Thank you.