THE WHITE HOUSE
Office of the Press Secretary
|For Immediate Release|| ||December 1, 1998|
REMARKS BY THE PRESIDENT
AT WORLD AIDS DAY EVENT
Old Executive Office
1:15 P.M. EST
THE PRESIDENT: Thank you, Amy, for your magnificentremarks and the power of your example. Thank you, Cynthia, forcoming to this big, scary crowd. (Laughter.) She was nervous. Isaid, well, look at the bright side -- at least you got out of schoolfor a day. (Laughter.)
I thank the other children who are here with us. And Iwant to thank all the members of our administration who have helpedso much in this cause -- Secretary Albright; Brian Atwood; Dr.Satcher; our AIDS Policy Director, Sandy Thurman; members of theCouncil on HIV and AIDS. We're glad to have Nafis Sadik here, theDirector of the U.N. Population Fund. Richard Socaridies from theWhite House, I thank you and all the other members of theadministration. And I, too, want to join in expressing myappreciation to the members of Congress who Brian mentioned for theirsupport for AIDS funding.
But I especially want to thank Amy for being here andreminding us of what this is all about. When she was speaking mymind wandered back to an incident that occurred when I was runningfor President in 1992. Some of you have heard me say this before,but I was in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, a place largely known for itsenormous percentage of Czech and Slovak citizens. And there was inthe crowd at this rally where I was speaking a woman who was eitherCzech or Slovak, probably, holding an African American baby. And Isaid, whose baby is this? She said, this is my baby. And I said,where is this baby from? She said, Florida, I got her from Florida.(Laughter.)
And it was October in Cedar Rapids and she should havebeen in Florida, probably. (Laughter.) She said, this baby was bornwith AIDS and abandoned and no one would take this baby. This womanhad her marriage had dissolved, she was raising her own childrenalone. But because she heard about children like this wonderfullittle girl, she adopted this baby.
And every year since, about once a year, I see thisyoung child. I've watched her grow up now and I'm happy to tell youthat six years later she's still alive and doing pretty well. Shecomes to the NIH for regular check-ups and she comes by the WhiteHouse to see her friend. And every time I see Jimiya I am remindedof what this whole thing is about.
And I think I should tell you one other thing. When Amywas standing up here with me and I was telling her what a fine jobshe did, she said, I'm so glad that Cynthia could be here, and that Icould say Carla's name in your presence.
This is, I think, very important for people who have notbeen touched in some personal way -- who have never been at thebedside of a dying friend, who have never looked into the eyes of achild orphaned by AIDS or infected with HIV -- tounderstand. And I believe, always, that if somehow we could reach tothe heart of people, we would always do better in dealing withproblems, for our mind always conjures a million excuses in dealingwith any great difficulty.
Let me begin, even in this traumatic moment, to say wehave a lot to celebrate on this AIDS Day. We celebrate the exampleof Amy and Cynthia. Just think, a decade ago people really believedthat AIDS was unstoppable; the diagnosis was a virtual deathsentence; there was an enormous amount ofignorance and prejudice and fear about HIV transmission. Most of usknew people who couldn't get into apartment houses or were beingkicked out or otherwise -- their children couldn't be in schoolbecause of fears that people had about it.
Every day, for people who had HIV or AIDS and theirfamilies -- every day was a struggle a decade ago. A struggle forbasic information, for treatment, for funding, and all too often, forsimple compassion.
For six years, thanks to many of you, we have workedhard to change this picture -- and so have tens of thousands of otherpeople across our country and across the globe. We've worked hard todraw attention to AIDS and to better direct our resources by creatingthe Office of National AIDS Policy and the President's Council on HIVand AIDS. We had the first ever White House conference on AIDS. Wehelped to ensure that people with HIV and AIDS cannot be deniedhealth benefits for preexisting conditions. We accelerated theapproval of more than a dozen new AIDS drugs, helping hundreds ofthousands of people with AIDS to live longer and more productivelives.
Working together with members of both parties in theCongress, we increased our investment in AIDS research to an historic$1.8 billion. This year we secured $262 million in new funding forthe Ryan White CARE Act, providing medical treatment, medication,even transportation to families coping with AIDs. This October wedeclared that AIDS had reached crisis proportions in the AfricanAmerican, Hispanic American and other minority communities, andfought for $156 million initiative to address that. Today the VicePresident is announcing $200 million in new grants for communitiesaround the country to provide housing for people with AIDS.
The results of these and other efforts have beenremarkable. For the first time since the epidemic began, the numberof Americans diagnosed with AIDS has begun to decline. For the firsttime, deaths due to AIDS in the United Stateshave declined. For the first time, therefore, there is hope that wecan actually defeat AIDS.
But all around us there is, as we have heard from allthe previous speakers, fresh evidence that the epidemic is far fromover, our work is far from finished, that there are rising numbers ofAIDS in countries like Zimbabwe, where 11 men, women, and childrenbecome infected every minute of every day. There are still too manychildren orphaned by AIDS, tens of thousands here in America, tens ofmillions in developing nations around the world.
And when so many people are suffering, and with HIVtransmission disproportionately high, still, among our own youngpeople here in America, it's all right to celebrate our progress, butwe cannot rest until we have actually put a stop to AIDS. I believewe can do it -- by developing a vaccine, by increasing our investmentin other forms of research, by improving our care for those who areinfected and our support for their families.
Last year at Morgan State University, I declared that weshould redouble our efforts to develop an AIDS vaccine withina decade. Today I am pleased to announce a $200 million investmentin cutting edge research at the NIH to develop a vaccine. That's a33 percent increase over last year. With this historic investment,we are one step closer to putting an end to the epidemic for allpeople.
I'm also pleased to say that there will be more than$160 million for other new research critical to fighting AIDS aroundthe world, from new strategies to prevent and treat AIDS in children,to new clinical trials to reduce transmission.
And as hard as we are working to stop the spread of AIDSwe cannot forget our profound obligation for the heartbreakingyoungest victims of the disease -- the orphaned children left in itswake. Around the world, as we have heard, millions of children havelost their parents. Their number is expected to rise to 40 millionover the next 10 to 15 years. Some of them are free of AIDS, othersare not. But sick or well, too many are left without parents toprotect them, to teach them right from wrong, to guide them throughlife and make them believe that they can live their lives to thefullest.
We cannot restore to them all they have lost, but we cangive them a future -- a foster family, enough food to eat, medicalcare, a chance to make the most of their lives by helping them tostay in school. Today, through Mr. Atwood's agency, we arecommitting another $10 million in emergency relief that will, thoughseemingly a small amount, actually make a huge difference for manythousands of children in need around the world.
I'm also directing Sandy Thurman to lead a fact-findingmission to Africa, where 90 percent of the AIDS orphans live.Following the mission she will report back to me with recommendationson what more we can do to help these children and give them somethingnot only to live for, but to hope for.
Eleven years ago, on the first World AIDS Day, we vowedto put an end to the AIDS epidemic. Eleven years from now, I hope wecan say that the steps we took today made that end come about. If ithappens, it will be in no small measure because of people like you inthis room, by your unfailing, passionate devotion to this cause -- acause we see most clearly expressed in the two people sitting rightbehind me.
Thank you all, and God bless you. (Applause.)