THE WHITE HOUSE
Office of the Press Secretary
|For Immediate Release|| ||October 28, 1998|
REMARKS BY THE PRESIDENT
ON HIV CRISIS IN MINORITY COMMUNITIES
Old Executive Office Building
5:16 P.M. EST
THE PRESIDENT: Thank you and welcome, every one of you. I'd liketobegin by welcoming the Mayor of Baltimore, Kurt Schmoke, and the Mayor ofEastSt. Louis, Gordon Bush. I'd like to thank the members of Congress herebehindme who are so responsible for the purpose for which we are called today.(Applause.)
I want to acknowledge Congresswoman Donna Christian Green,CongressmanElijah Cummings, Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton, Congressman DonaldPayne.I will say more about Congresswoman Maxine Waters and Representative LouStokesin a moment. (Laughter.) But I want to thank them and all the members oftheCongressional Black Caucus, including all the House members and SenatorCarolMoseley Braun, for what they did.
And then I would like to offer a special word of appreciation toSenatorArlen Specter and Congresswoman Nancy Pelosi, who helped us so much to getthisdone. Thank you very much. (Applause.)
I want to thank everyone in our administration who has worked sohard onthe issue of HIV and AIDS, beginning with the Vice President who couldn'tbehere today, but who has worked very hard on all these issues; and SecretaryShalala; our wonderful Surgeon General, David Satcher; the Director of ourAIDSPolicy Office, Sandy Thurman, who has literally spent months sounding thealarmabout the growing crisis in communities of color, and working to helpachievethese dramatic funding increases. There is no stronger or more effectiveadvocate. And I think we ought to thank Sandy Thurman for what she's done.
Finally, I want to thank Denise Stokes for being here. As you will hearin a few moments, she has been living with HIV for 15 years, and has beengivingso much of herself to educate others. If we are to stop this cruel diseasewe'll have to have brave people like Denise to reach out with candor andcompassion to those at risk. I really admire her very much. And you'llhearfrom her in a moment, but I think we ought to give her a hand for showinguptoday. (Applause.)
We have good reason to feel encouraged that so many HIV-positivemen andwomen are living longer and healthier lives. We should be proud that we'vehelped to speed the development of lifesaving therapies and nearly tripledtosupport those with HIV and AIDS.
But the AIDS epidemic is far from over in any community in ourcountry.Today, we're here to send out a word loud and clear: AIDS is a particularly severe and ongoing crisis in the AfricanAmerican and Hispanic communities and in other communities of color.African Americans represent only 13 percent of our population, butaccount for almost half the new AIDS cases reported last year.Hispanics represent 10 percent of our population; they account formore than 20 percent of the new AIDS cases. And AIDS is becoming acritical concern in some Native American and Asian Americancommunities, as well.
Like other epidemics before it, AIDS is now hittinghardest in areas where knowledge about the disease is scarce andpoverty is high. In other words, as so often happens, it is pickingon the most vulnerable among us.
The fact is HIV infection is one of the most deadlyhealth disparities between African Americans, Hispanics, and whiteAmericans. And just as we have committed to help build one Americaby ending the racial and ethnic disparities in infant mortality andcancer and other diseases, we must use all our power to end thegrowing disparities in HIV and AIDS.
The AIDS crisis in our communities of color is anational one, and that is why we are greatly increasing our nationalresponse. Today I am proud to announce we are launching anunprecedented $156 million initiative to stem the AIDS crisis inminority communities. (Applause.)
It is one of the greatest victories in the balancedbudget law I just signed. It never could have happened without thepassionate and compassionate leadership of Maxine Waters, Lou Stokes,and the rest of the Congressional Black Caucus -- (applause) -- orthe support of Senator Specter and Congresswoman Pelosi and so manyothers. (Applause.)
Now, this initiative will allow thousands of cities,churches, schools, and grass-roots organizations to expand preventionefforts and target them to the specific needs of specific minoritycommunities such as young men, students, pregnant mothers. It willallow minority communities to expand treatment for substance abuse.It will increase access to protease inhibitors and other newtherapies, because lifesaving therapies cannot be a luxury reservedonly for the rich. (Applause.)
It will increase access to skilled doctors and otherhealth care providers. And finally, it will help us to assembleteams of public health experts from the Centers for Disease Controland other federal agencies to visit individual communities andprovide whatever technical assistance those communities need.(Applause.)
This new initiative will build on the other historicfunding increases in HIV/AIDS funding we won in the new balancedbudget, which Secretary Shalala will talk about in greater detail ina moment. I'm also pleased that it will build on our race and healthinitiative. Congress has taken a first step to fund this initiative,but we must do more. We are not one America when some of ourcommunities lag so far behind in health.
Of course, this room looks nothing like a house ofworship except for a few collars I see. (Laughter.) But I'd like toend my remarks today with what I think is quite an appropriatepassage from the First Letter of Paul to the Corinthians. "The bodyis a unit, though it is made up of many parts. And though all itsparts are many, they form one body. If one part suffers, every partsuffers with it. If one part is honored, every part rejoices withit."
So it is with the body of Americans, and a nation thatstrives to be one America. Every one of our communities isinextricably linked, in suffering and rejoicing, in sickness and inhealth. And that is why we must work together in every community tostop this cruel disease. Black or white, gay or straight, rich orpoor, you name it, we have to stop it.
Now I'd like to present America's Surgeon General, ournation's family doctor, whose deep commitment to advancing ourcountry's health is embodied in the 200-year-old guiding principle ofour public health service that you best protect the health of theentire nation when you reach out to the most vulnerable people.
Dr. David Satcher. (Applause.)