[Public Papers of the Presidents of the United States: William J. Clinton (1998, Book II)]
[December 1, 1998]
[Pages 2104-2106]
[From the U.S. Government Publishing Office www.gpo.gov]

[[Page 2104]]

Remarks Announcing AIDS Initiatives
December 1, 1998

    Thank you, Amy, for your magnificent remarks and the power of your 
example. Thank you, Cynthia, for coming to this big, scary crowd. 
[Laughter] She was nervous. I said, ``Well, look at the bright side. At 
least you got out of school for a day.'' [Laughter]
    I thank the other children who are here with us. And I want to thank 
all the members of our administration who have helped so much in this 
cause: Secretary Albright; Brian Atwood; Dr. Satcher; our AIDS Policy 
Director, Sandy Thurman; members of the Council on HIV and AIDS. We're 
glad to have Nafis Sadik here, the Director of the U.N. Population Fund. 
Richard Socarides from the White House, I thank you and all the other 
members of the administration. And I, too, want to join in expressing my 
appreciation to the Members of Congress who Brian mentioned for their 
support for AIDS funding.
    But I especially want to thank Amy for being here and reminding us 
of what this is all about. When she was speaking, my mind wandered back 
to an incident that occurred when I was running for President in 1992. 
Some of you have heard me say this before, but I was in Cedar Rapids, 
Iowa, a place largely known for its enormous percentage of Czech and 
Slovak citizens. And there was in the crowd at this rally where I was 
speaking a woman who was either Czech or Slovak, probably, holding an 
African-American baby. And I said. ``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 have been in Florida, probably. [Laughter] 
She said, ``This baby was born with AIDS and abandoned, and no one would 
take this baby.'' This woman had--her marriage had dissolved; she was 
raising her own children alone. But because she heard about children 
like this wonderful little girl, she adopted this baby.
    And every year since, about once a year, I see this young child. 
I've watched her grow up now, and I'm happy to tell you that 6 years 
later she's still alive and doing pretty well. She comes to the NIH for 
regular checkups, and she comes by the White House to see her friend. 
And every time I see Jimiya, I am reminded of what this whole thing is 
    And I think I should tell you one other thing. When Amy was standing 
up here with me and I was telling her what a fine job she did, she said, 
``I'm so glad that Cynthia could be here and that I could say Carla's 
name in your presence.''
    This is, I think, very important for people who have not been 
touched in some personal way--who have never been at the bedside of a 
dying friend, who have never looked into the eyes of a child orphaned by 
AIDS or infected with HIV--to understand. And I believe, always, that if 
somehow we could reach to the heart of people, we would always do better 
in dealing with problems, for our mind always conjures a million excuses 
in dealing with any great difficulty.
    Let me begin, even in this traumatic moment, to say we have a lot to 
celebrate on this AIDS Day. We celebrate the example of Amy and Cynthia. 
Just think, a decade ago people really believed that AIDS was 
unstoppable. The diagnosis was a virtual death sentence. There was an 
enormous amount of ignorance and prejudice and fear about HIV 
transmission. Most of us knew people who couldn't get into apartment 
houses or were being kicked out or otherwise; their children couldn't be 
in school because of fears that people had about it. Every day, for 
people who had HIV or AIDS and their families, every day was a struggle 
a decade ago, a struggle for basic information, for treatment, for 
funding, and all too often, for simple compassion.
    For 6 years, thanks to many of you, we have worked hard to change 
this picture, and so have tens of thousands of other people across our 
country and across the globe. We've worked hard to draw attention to 
AIDS and to better direct our resources by creating the office of 
National AIDS Policy and the President's Council on HIV and AIDS. We had 
the first-ever White House conference on AIDS. We helped to ensure that 
people with HIV and AIDS cannot be denied health benefits for 
preexisting conditions. We accelerated the approval of more

[[Page 2105]]

than a dozen new AIDS drugs, helping hundreds of thousands of people 
with AIDS to live longer and more productive lives.
    Working together with members of both parties in the Congress, we 
increased our investment in AIDS research to an historic $1.8 billion. 
This year we secured $262 million in new funding for the Ryan White CARE 
Act, providing medical treatment, medication, even transportation to 
families coping with AIDS. This October we declared that AIDS had 
reached crisis proportions in the African-American, Hispanic-American, 
and other minority communities, and fought for a $156 million initiative 
to address that. Today the Vice President is announcing $200 million in 
new grants for communities around the country to provide housing for 
people with AIDS.
    The results of these and other efforts have been remarkable. For the 
first time since the epidemic began, the number of Americans diagnosed 
with AIDS has begun to decline. For the first time, deaths due to AIDS 
in the United States have declined. For the first time, therefore, there 
is hope that we can actually defeat AIDS.
    But all around us there is, as we have heard from all the previous 
speakers, fresh evidence that the epidemic is far from over, our work is 
far from finished, that there are rising numbers of AIDS in countries 
like Zimbabwe, where 11 men, women, and children become infected every 
minute of every day. There are still too many children orphaned by AIDS, 
tens of thousands here in America, tens of millions in developing 
nations around the world.
    And when so many people are suffering and with HIV transmission 
disproportionately high, still, among our own young people here in 
America, it's all right to celebrate our progress, but we cannot rest 
until we have actually put a stop to AIDS. I believe we can do it by 
developing a vaccine, by increasing our investment in other forms of 
research, by improving our care for those who are infected and our 
support for their families.
    Last year at Morgan State University, I declared that we should 
redouble our efforts to develop an AIDS vaccine within a decade. Today I 
am pleased to announce a $200 million investment in cutting-edge 
research at the NIH to develop a vaccine. That's a 33-percent increase 
over last year. With this historic investment, we are one step closer to 
putting an end to the epidemic for all people.
    I'm also pleased to say that there will be more than $160 million 
for other new research critical to fighting AIDS around the 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 AIDS, we cannot 
forget our profound obligation for the heartbreaking youngest victims of 
the disease, the orphaned children left in its wake. Around the world, 
as we have heard, millions of children have lost their parents. Their 
number is expected to rise to 40 million over the next 10 to 15 years. 
Some of them are free of AIDS; others are not. But sick or well, too 
many are left without parents to protect them, to teach them right from 
wrong, to guide them through life and make them believe that they can 
live their lives to the fullest.
    We cannot restore to them all they have lost, but we can give them a 
future, a foster family, enough food to eat, medical care, a chance to 
make the most of their lives by helping them to stay in school. Today, 
through Mr. Atwood's agency, we are committing another $10 million in 
emergency relief that will, though seemingly a small amount, actually 
make a huge difference for many thousands of children in need around the 
    I'm also directing Sandy Thurman to lead a fact-finding mission to 
Africa, where 90 percent of the AIDS orphans live. Following the 
mission, she will report back to me with recommendations on what more we 
can do to help these children and give them something not only to live 
for but to hope for.
    Eleven years ago, on the first World AIDS Day, we vowed to put an 
end to the AIDS epidemic. Eleven years from now, I hope we can say that 
the steps we took today made that end come about. If it happens, it will 
be in no small measure because of people like you in this room, by your 
unfailing, passionate devotion to this cause, a cause we see most 
clearly expressed in the two people sitting right behind me.
    Thank you all, and God bless you.

Note: The President spoke at 1:15 p.m. in Room 450 of the Old Executive 
Office Building. In his remarks, he referred to HIV/AIDS activist Amy 
Slemmer, who introduced the President; Ms.

[[Page 2106]]

Slemmer's adopted daughter, Cynthia, and Carla Edwina Barrett, Cynthia's 
biological mother; and Laura Poisel and her adopted daughter, Jimiya, 
who was born with AIDS. The World AIDS Day proclamation of December 1 is 
listed in Appendix D at the end of this volume.