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Pediatric Aids Foundation's PSA Campaign

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First Lady


Office of the Press Secretary

For Immediate Release
May 22, 1995

Remarks by
First Lady Hillary Rodham Clinton
At the Kick-Off Event For the Pediatric Aids Foundation's
PSA Campaign, Washington D.C.

MRS. CLINTON: Thank you Patsy for your hard work and your constant commitment to making sure that all of us know what we need to know about AIDS and HIV. Thank you for that introduction.

I'm delighted to be here. I look around this room, and I see so many people who have done so much over the last decade or so to not only bring the issue of AIDS to public attention, but to try to put together the kind of effort that is needed in research and in treatment and care, that we are hoping to move forward by this announcement today.

I'm particularly pleased to see members of Congress here. I want to welcome Senator Hatch, and thank you for your concern about this issue -- Senator Boxer, and former Senator Hawkins, and Senator Metzenbaum, who I am always pleased to see. Also with us is Congresswoman Eddie Bernice Johnson, and I think that's all of the members of Congress that are here, but there are others who are also committed to this.

We are pleased to have members of the research and medical community represented here, and I'm particularly pleased to see my friend, former Surgeon General, Dr. Koop, who is here -- who was one of the first voices to make AIDS an important issue on the American agenda.

Thank you all for coming and for the contributions you are making in the fight against Pediatric AIDS. I'd like to say a special thanks to Susie Zeegan and Susan DeLaurentis for their tireless leadership of the Pediatric AIDS Foundation and for the PSA campaign you're here to unveil.

And we are all here because in some small or great way, we have been touched by the life, service and work of our friend, Elizabeth Glaser. I am always thinking about Elizabeth and her contribution, and I believe the best way we can honor her is by continuing her mission. As both Susie and Susan and all of you are doing every day. Nobody fought harder and did more in the fight against Pediatric AIDS than Elizabeth Glaser. And nobody fought with more dignity and courage.

When Elizabeth discovered that she had contracted HIV from a blood transfusion, after the delivery of her daughter, Ariel, she could have given up. When she discovered that Ariel, and her son, Jake, born three years later, had both contracted the virus, she could have given up. And when Ariel died at the age of seven, she certainly could have given up, but instead of giving up or giving in, Elizabeth channelled her energy and passion into the fight against Pediatric AIDS. The Pediatric AIDS Foundation exists because Elizabeth refused to see herself and her children as victims of fate. She lit candles for hope for children by igniting fires under Presidents, Congress, scientists, doctors, all of us. She had tremendous success mobilizing private support, and in getting Republicans and Democrats to work together against AIDS. She succeeded, in part, because she reminded every American that every American is at risk -- wealthy or poor, of whatever religion or racial or ethnic background, but more importantly she succeeded because of her enormous tenacity, compassion and grace.

With us today is her partner in that battle, her husband who kept her going day after day, month after month, year after year, Paul has continued the fight with a strong sense of responsibility to Elizabeth, to Ariel and to Jake, and to the other women and children who may not have to live with HIV and AIDS because of the work that Elizabeth and others began. Again, rather than giving in or giving up, Paul has worked ceaselessly, first with Elizabeth, and then, now carrying on that work, in order to make sure all of us are committed to increasing awareness about AIDS and raising funds for research to find a treatment and a cure.

The results of Paul and Elizabeth's dedication and devotion are clear. When Elizabeth helped found the Pediatric AIDS Foundation, in 1988, there was no Pediatric AIDS research agenda. Since then, the Foundation has raised thirty-one million dollars. It has sponsored unique collaborations among government, businesses and private research institutions. Its Ariel Project brought together key researchers and clinicians to find a way to block transmission from an infected mother to her newborn child. And of course, that is why we are here today, because finally as the public service announcement you see on display here and will see, there is some good news about AIDS.

As you in this room know, and I want all Americans to know, a study sponsored by the National Institutes of Health found that drug treatment during pregnancy will significantly reduce the risk that an HIV-infected mother will transmit the virus to her child. About 7,000 HIV-infected mothers give birth each year, and without treatment, about 25 percent of those children are born infected with HIV. This study shows that treatment can reduce the rate of transmission from 25 percent to 8 percent. With this information comes opportunity and hope -- the opportunity for women to get tested for HIV, the opportunity to get these women treatment they need to help themselves and their babies, and the hope that with the guidance of doctors and counselors and the vigilance of mothers, we can prevent infection of newborn babies.

This is one of the times when all of us, regardless of party or background agree on a common goal -- that mothers should be tested for HIV so that we can save children. We need to do everything we can to protect children who never have to become HIV-infected, and that's what this PSA campaign is all about. In cooperation with its partners in business, government, the AIDS community, the medical community and every concerned American, the Pediatric AIDS Foundation's campaign will reach out to give women the information they need to protect their own health and the health of their children.

But information alone is not enough. HIV-infected women and their children must have access to health care and other support services. That's why we need to protect funding for the Ryan White Care Act, which pays for AIDS related drugs and primary care services, including counseling and testing. That's why we need to support public health institutions, why we need to support the CDC and the World Health Organization, that are working to stop epidemics like AIDS and other epidemics on the horizon that threaten the public health of Americans. And that's why we must protect the the Medicaid program so that it can continue to cover more than 92 percent of the children in our country with AIDS. The Health Care Financing Administration is working with states to assure Medicaid coverage of AZT for the prevention of perinatal transmission of HIV. We cannot let budget politics or maneuvering threaten our ability to prevent HIV infection in babies. And that means we have to be willing, with public service announcements like the ones we are starting today, not only to get information to women, so that they will take care of themselves, and hopefully prevent the kind of infection that could come to their babies, but that they will then have the services and support to do so to demonstrate to other women that it will work.

The battle against Pediatric AIDS is being fought every day by advocates like the Pediatric AIDS Foundation, by researchers and doctors, by mothers and fathers and by many remarkably brave and strong children. The NIH study, a study that came about because of the Pediatric AIDS Foundation's interest and the expertise at NIH is so important, and it must be well-publicized so that all women get the message about the importance of getting tested. We can win this fight, and there can be more mothers like Stephanie Amande, who will be speaking to you in a minute, who is with us today, who take advantage of the treatments we know work, and who can give their children the chance to grow up without HIV infection.

It is now my great pleasure to introduce someone who has done so much to make sure that the struggle against AIDS and HIV continues and is made part of our daily consciousness, and someone whom I am delighted and privileged to call a friend, Paul Glaser.

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