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For Immediate Release
Office of the Press Secretary
June 23, 2004
Remarks by the President on Compassion and HIV/AIDS
People for People
10:42 A.M. EDT
Carol Thompson Discusses AIDS
Thanks for having me. It's great to be back in this compassionate city. I think it's called the City of Brotherly Love, and that's what we're here to talk about today, is brotherly love.
First I want to thank my friend, Herb Lusk, for inviting me back to the Greater Exodus Baptist Church. I've been here before, the 4th of July. (Applause.) And I don't remember this building being here. At the time I said, Herb is a social entrepreneur who can make things happen. We're in this beautiful building because he made things happen. (Applause.) He believes, as I do, in the power of faith to touch every heart and to change every life.
That's kind of the motto or the philosophy of the programs that emanate from this church. He is a -- he takes his admonition to love a neighbor just like you'd like to be loved yourself seriously. And so do the people who attend this church.
I want to remind you that not only is there great spirituality here, but this is a church that trains people coming off welfare rolls to find work. Isn't that a wonderful -- (applause.) This is a church which helps feed the hungry, and finds shelter for the homeless. A church that helps families to stay together. This is a church that is giving generously of time and money. Herb Lusk is a general in the army of compassion. (Applause.)
This is a -- and the other thing this church is doing is sending donations to fight AIDS around the world. (Applause.) I'm here to thank the church for doing that. I want to thank all the churches in the Greater Philadelphia area for the Stand for Africa Campaign. This is a great example of how people of faith can become involved in saving lives. It's a fine example for every American, faith or no faith.
HIV/AIDS, you see, is a challenge, it's a direct challenge to the compassion of our country, and to the welfare of not only our nation, but nations all across the globe. It's really one of the great challenges of our time. This disease leaves suffering and orphans and fear wherever it reaches.
Every man and woman and child who suffers from this affliction, from the streets of Philly to the villages of Africa, is a child of God who deserves our love and our help. And that's what I'm here to talk about today. We're provided -- we're determined to provide that help. We're committed to help those at home and help those abroad. To whom much has been given, much is demanded.
I want to thank Tommy Thompson for being here. He's one of the ones I demand that he do his job to make sure that we do the best we can in America to help those who hurt. And Tommy is the -- he's the head of the Department of Health and Human Services. He's doing a fabulous job. I want to thank you for coming. (Applause.) His job is to work with the issue at home, as well as abroad. But to help him make sure the AIDS initiative, our international AIDS initiative works well, I went into the private sector and found somebody who had run a complex organization before. You see, we're moving a lot of money -- and I'm about to describe it to you here in a minute -- but I want to make sure the money is actually spent wisely. See, we ought not to be measured on how much money we move, we ought to be measured on how many lives we save. (Applause.)
So, therefore, I needed somebody who is a manager, somebody who could organize, somebody who could find that which works and make sure it continues to work well, and that which doesn't work, replace it with something that does. Somebody who is open-minded and focused on the results. And that is Ambassador Randy Tobias. I'm proud you're here, Randy. Thanks for coming. (Applause.)
And working with Tobias is my friend, Dr. Joe O'Neill. He is the person -- I like to call him the architect of the global AIDS initiative. Dr. Joe has been very much involved with HIV/AIDS for a long period of time. He's a pioneer in many ways, a deeply compassionate person and a man I'm proud to call friend. Thank you for coming, Joe. I'm glad you're here. (Applause.)
We've got a lot of other important people here. We've got members of Congress -- and since Congress is in session, it's probably in my interest to introduce the congressmen. (Laughter.) Congressman Curt Weldon and Congressman Jim Greenwood are with us today, two really fine members. (Applause.) Senator Specter flew on the airplane, he had to get back for some votes, but he sent his better half -- and I emphasize "better half." (Laughter.) I want to thank Mrs. Specter for coming today. (Applause.) City Councilman Jack Kelly, as well -- is here, as well.
Members from the church are here. We've got bishops from different religions, and I am honored you are here. We've got people who have heard the call and who want to serve, are here. We've got a volunteer who is here, a person named Pat McDonough. I met her at the airport. There she is. Pat, thank you for coming. (Applause.) She is a volunteer at Silloam. I'll be talking about Silloam pretty soon. It's a spiritually-based program designed to help save lives. You'll hear some stories about this locally-based grassroots organization, which depends upon people such as Pat to show up and volunteer.
And so the reason I bring up Pat -- first of all, what she does, she's a massage therapist for people affected by HIV/AIDS. She uses her hands to help reflect her heart and make people more comfortable in their pain. You know, when you've got somebody who loves somebody helping them through their pain, the effect is not only physical, it can be spiritual, as well. And I want to thank Pat for volunteering.
My call to people in Philadelphia who want to love their neighbor is to find programs such as Silloam, or the programs in Herb's church, and say, I want to help. To me, it's patriotic to love a neighbor like you'd like to loved yourself.
I appreciate the example, Pat, that you have set. And I'm honored you are here, and thank you for coming. (Applause.)
Every day in our world, 8,000 lives are lost to the AIDS pandemic -- 8,000 people a day. We are fighting one of the great tragedies of human history. And it's important for our fellow citizens to understand that this is a great tragedy. See, when you see a great tragedy, people will respond. This isn't a minor tragedy. It's just not a blip in history. It is a great tragedy. That's how I view it. That's how others here view it, as well.
Tens of millions of people are living with HIV virus. More than two million of them are children under the age of 15. It's really difficult to think about that kind of injustice, isn't it, about despair coming so early to boys and girls who are so young. That's the problem we face. That's a problem we'll deal with. AIDS is an individual tragedy for all who suffer, and a public health catastrophe that threatens the future of many nations.
In some African countries, the percentage of adults infected with HIV is as high as one-third. In our own country, nearly a million of our fellow Americans have the virus, and 40,000 more contract it each year.
Yet, there are reasons to be encouraged and hopeful and optimistic in the fight against AIDS. HIV is no longer a hopeless death sentence, and that's a positive development. New drugs and new treatments are dramatically extending and improving lives. The scientists and researchers who develop these drugs are some of the great humanitarian heroes of our time, and we thank them for their work, and we will fund their work.
Their work has made broader treatment, even in the poorest of countries, a realistic hope. And proven methods of prevention are showing the spread of this disease -- are slowing the spread of this disease in some parts of the world. In other words, prevention -- we're beginning to understand how to prevent the disease from spreading. HIV/AIDS can be beaten. We're committed to ending the plague. America is committed to continue to leading the world in ending the plague. (Applause.)
We're fully engaged in this global fight against AIDS -- I mean fully engaged. Our nation took the lead in sounding the global fund. We remain the world's largest contributor to the fund. We're setting the example for others to follow. That's what a leader does. America leads so that others will follow.
To expand these efforts, a year and a half ago I announced the Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief. That's the plan that Dr. O'Neill is the architect of. I called for $15 billion over five years to combat the spread of HIV in other countries, and to provide treatment and care to 10 million people affected by HIV. Earlier this year, Congress provided $2.4 billion for my emergency plan -- in other words, they're beginning to fund the plan. And I thank them for that. I want to thank the members of Congress who are here. (Applause.)
I call upon Congress to make sure they fully fund the plan. The first portion, $350 million, began reaching people in need six weeks ago -- only six weeks ago, I might add. (Applause.) That is the fast -- that is faster than any major international anti-AIDS effort has ever been implemented. Because our help cannot get there fast enough, there is a pandemic on the continent. We need to move quickly.
We've identified 14 nations in Africa and the Caribbean in need of urgent help. The global fund and bilateral funding really means we're reaching all around the world. We're focused on 14 nations where the pandemic is most acute. Let's go where the problems are the toughest, I said. Let's bring America -- let's bring America to where -- where people suffer the most. We want to tackle the toughest problems in this country, not the easiest ones. We'll leave the easier ones for other people. (Applause.)
In these countries, the money is funding clinics, buying drugs, paying for treatments, supporting faith-based groups, training health care workers. The funds are making a difference already. In just a few months, the Reach Out clinic in Uganda -- one of these little centers of heroism in the midst of disease -- in Uganda more than doubled the number of patients it is treating with life-extending antiretroviral drugs. In other words, we're beginning to get it out. We're beginning to -- we're beginning to see results. Suddenly, there's new hope among those who seek help and those who give it.
See, when they get the antiretroviral drug, there's a Lazarus effect -- (applause) -- and people, all of a sudden, say, I have hope. And when others have hope -- when someone has hope, that spreads to other people. There's nothing better than a hopeful society in dealing with the pandemic. A hopeful society means you think you can win. A non-hopeful society says, I surrender. America is not going to surrender to the pandemic. (Applause.)
One of the workers in the clinic describes it this way: "We are experiencing something very beautiful. Our clients will have a chance to continue to live." I want to thank you all for your work.
Jennifer Birungi is a widow who lives in Uganda's capital, Kampala. She has two children. She has HIV, and earlier this year she was diagnosed with meningitis. It's a terrible disease under any circumstance. But that one is especially devastating for people with HIV. The doctors will tell you the combination of HIV and meningitis is deadly. Without treatment, her life expectancy would have been six days. Because America acted, because the American people acted, she's getting treatment, and the extra years she now hopes for will mean everything to her children. (Applause.)
For too long, anti-AIDS programs offered too little treatment for those who had already contracted the disease. And so today we're helping other nations to buy drugs -- this is one of the focuses of Randy and Joe -- so that we can extend lives. Because, you see, every life matters to the Author of life, and so they matter to us.
Today, I announce a second round of funding in the Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief. More than $500 million will be soon on its way. Congress needs to release the money. (Applause.) These grants will provide more antiretroviral treatments and promote prevention efforts, care for children who lost their parents to AIDS -- there's a lot of orphans around the continent of Africa. You've got 14- and 15-year-old kids raising their brothers and sisters. So part of the effort is to provide love and hope for these brave young kids who have been handed an incredibly tough burden, an awesome burden.
We want to help build and equip hospitals and clinics. In other words, we want the infrastructure to be there. Part of the money goes to make sure there's an infrastructure. I mean, we really don't care here in America if it takes a bicycle or a moped to get antiretrovirals out of these big cities, but that's what we're going to do. And part of the challenge we face is to help poor countries have the capacity to absorb the drugs and compassion of America. That's one of our challenges.
I want to thank the Congress, again, and the taxpayer, for their generosity. This is a vital initiative. Let's make sure the resources keep coming on a timely basis.
Today, I'm also announcing that we're adding Vietnam to the emergency plan. In other words, we have 14 countries; we're adding a 15th country. Now, after a long analysis by our staff, we believe that Vietnam deserves this special help. We're putting a history of bitterness behind us with Vietnam. The reason why -- (applause) -- the reason why the decision was made is because the nation has experienced a rapid rise in HIV infections -- a rapid rise -- especially among the young.
And Vietnam is cooperative and wants help. In other words, they recognize they have a problem -- which, by the way, is an important part of battling the pandemic. People have got to say, I've got a problem, come and help us. It's hard in certain countries that people say, we don't have a problem, you know, in denial. In the meantime, people are dying. Part of diplomacy, by the way, good diplomacy says to leaders, I think you need to listen to the truth, and the truth will set you free and help people survive.
And so, therefore, we're sending up to the Congress a notification that Vietnam is now going to receive -- be a part of the 15 -- now 15 nation focus, and want the Vietnamese to hear, together we'll fight the disease. You've got a friend in America. (Applause.)
We will continue to confront the disease abroad, and we will confront it here at home, as well. I want our fellow citizens to understand that we can -- we can work in Africa, and we can work in America at the same time. We've got plenty of capacity. (Applause.) These efforts are not mutually exclusive, they're complementary, they're complementary.
The number of women diagnosed with AIDS has risen in America. That is a fact. For African Americans between the ages of 25 and 44, the prime of life, AIDS is the second leading cause of death. We've got to deal with it here at home, as well. (Applause.)
AIDS is finding more victims beyond our cities. AIDS victims now are in our suburbs and in the rural heartland. Neither individuals, nor society, nor government can afford to be complacent, and we will not relent against the battle of AIDS here in America. My latest budget commits more than $17 billion to prevent and treat AIDS in America, and to find a cure. This is a 27-percent increase from the budgets of 2001. (Applause.)
It's one thing to spend money, it's another thing to spend it wisely. And so today I want to talk about a three-part strategy to make sure that we're effective here at home. First, we will provide better care and treatment to those suffering from HIV and AIDS, better treatment and care. We will act as quickly as possible to get lifesaving drugs to people with the greatest need.
In 10 states, hundreds of AIDS patients are waiting for access to life-extending treatments. In other words, there's long lines. Some of these people have been waiting for months. That seems like a problem that we can deal with, Tommy. And we're prepared to help deal with it. So we're going to provide $20 million, effective today, to extend lifesaving drugs -- (applause) -- the purpose of which is to deliver lifesaving drugs to the men and women who are waiting. In other words, there shouldn't be lines here. And we're going to deal with the lines.
We will also get help to those who need it by making sure that the federal programs are focused on saving lives. Our nation's most important AIDS legislation, the Ryan White Care Act, has done a lot of good, a lot of good over the years, by funding groups that provide care and services to AIDS patients. Yet the law was written more than a decade ago, when those with AIDS had little hope. So the law is concerned largely with caring for the sick and dying, instead of helping AIDS patients to lead longer and healthier lives. In other words, there's a different focus now because things have changed, technology has changed, medicines are changing how people can live with AIDS.
When the Ryan White Care Act is reauthorized next year, I propose to make it stronger and more effective by focusing resources on life-extending care, such as antiretroviral drugs and doctor visits and lab tests. This kind of care was just a dream 20 years ago. It is a reality today. And we will work with Congress to make sure that as many patients as possible are receiving the modern care they deserve. (Applause.)
We need to change the way that money under the Ryan White Care Act is provided to care-givers and states and communities. Today, funding decisions are made according to a rigid geographical formula that takes too little account of the most urgent needs. In other words, you can't set priorities -- that's what that means.
In some areas of the country -- countries, (sic) there are more severe cases. There are particular problems among minority women. There are fewer resources to handle its case load. In those cases, Tommy Thompson, the Secretary of Health and Human Services, should have the flexibility to cut through the red tape and get the money quickly to where it is needed. That's what we're going to propose to the Congress. Let us set priorities and make sure the resources fund those priorities. That makes sense, with taxpayers' money, it seems like to me. We must hold accountable organizations that receive federal help to fight AIDS by keeping track of their progress. People shouldn't fear that. They ought to -- say, are you doing the job? Are lives being saved? Are your lines too long? If they are, why? Are you getting out the word? Are you doing what we asked? You see, we're interested in the people's lives, not the bureaucratic process.
We must be sure that any organization that is effective in AIDS is eligible for federal help, by the way -- effective in fighting AIDS is eligible for help. And that includes faith-based groups. See, there are -- (applause.) The faith-based groups are making a huge difference on the continent of Africa; they need to be making a huge difference here at home, as well. (Applause.)
For many AIDS patients, especially those who live in low-income areas or rural areas, a local church program or community health center is their only source for treatment and support. And to be frank about it, the church is the only place many people feel comfortable going to share their burdens. Sometimes, they don't feel so comfortable sharing their burdens in a church. And when that's the case, the church needs to make sure people do feel comfortable in sharing the burden. But, nevertheless -- (applause.) The way I like to put it is, faith-based programs deserve the support of our government when they're effective, not to be discriminated against. People shouldn't fear the fact if there's a cross on the wall and an AIDS program in that building. We ought to welcome that. We ought not to fear the Star of David on a wall and an AIDS program ensconced in the building. We ought to welcome it, because the motivation by the people of faith is a motivation to help heal the hurt. (Applause.)
The second part of a domestic strategy to fight AIDS is prevention. I think it's really important for us to focus on prevention. We can learn from the experiences of other countries when it comes to a good program to prevent the spread of AIDS, like the nation of Uganda. They've started what they call the A-B-C approach to prevention of this deadly disease. That stands for: Abstain, be faithful in marriage, and, when appropriate, use condoms. That's what A-B-C stands for. And it's working. I like to call it a practical, balanced and moral message. I say it's working because Uganda has cut its AIDS infection rate to 5 percent over 10 years. Prevention works. (Applause.)
I think our country needs a practical, effective, moral message. In addition to other kinds of prevention, we need to tell our children that abstinence is the only certain way to avoid contacting HIV. (Applause.) It works every time. Children have a way of living up or down to our expectations. If we want them to lead healthy and responsible lives, we must ask them to lead healthy and responsible lives. (Applause.)
This message, I know, is the primary duty of moms and dads. It's not the primary duty of the government. I fully recognize that. However, government can help. That's why I have proposed to double federal funding for programs that help local groups spread the most effective way to prevent the spread of AIDS, which is to teach children to make the right choices in life. (Applause.)
Our national prevention efforts also depend on HIV testing as a routine part of health care. That makes sense to me, it should to you. I mean, how can you solve a problem until you diagnose the problem. Roughly, a quarter of the people with HIV do not know they have it. That makes it hard to treat people who don't know they have it. They aren't getting the treatment, of course, and they're unknowingly spreading the majority of new infections.
Testing now is easier than ever. My administration is encouraging health care providers to test for HIV routinely, to save lives, that's why we're doing that. Across America, June 27th is National HIV Testing Day. (Applause.) For the sake of their health and for the sake of the health of others, I urge all Americans at risk to get the test. You'll be -- by getting the test, you'll be making a significant contribution to making sure that we arrest the spread of HIV/AIDS.
Another way to prevent the spread of AIDS is to fight drug addiction. (Applause.) This is one more aspect -- in other words, the spread of AIDS through sharing needles is one more aspect of the terrible grief and destruction that drug abuse causes across America. I proposed to Congress increased funding for substance abuse treatment by $150 million next year. The reason I did so is because we've got an issue in America that we've got to deal with straight up. (Applause.) And I want to make sure that all treatment providers can utilize this money.
Listen, sometimes programs work, kind of the clinical approach works to help people kick drugs and alcohol. But a lot of times it requires a change of heart. If you change your heart, you can change your habits. If you change your heart, you change your life. (Applause.) And that's why it's important to make sure the faith community can access federal money to heal the hurt that drug addiction causes.
All these measures are important and will allow more people with AIDS to live longer and better lives. Yet, we must, and will, beat this disease once and for all. So the third element of our strategy to fight AIDS in America and around the world is to intensify the search for a vaccine and for a cure. (Applause.)
Just two weeks ago, at the G8 Summit in Sea Island, Georgia, America joined with Japan and Germany and Great Britain and France and other allies to establish the Global HIV Vaccine Enterprise. What that means is we're going to make a major commitment by the world's best scientists to defeat HIV/AIDS.
By the way, we've got some great scientists here in our own country. At the NIH, we've got some great scientists who have dedicated a lifetime to finding the vaccine and a cure. It makes sense to have a collaborative effort with great scientists from all over the globe. This is a global problem. So we need to work together and share information.
As part of the effort, the United States will establish a new HIV Vaccine Research and Development Center. I asked the question to Tommy whether Dr. Fauci approved of this. He's -- he's one of the leaders in the world of developing the cure. He said, he's strongly in favor. I said, if Fauci is for it, I'm for it. The guy knows what he's doing. He's dedicated a lifetime, as has other scientists here in America, to finding the cure.
Congress -- as we find the cure, it's very important for Congress to allow for the acceleration of new vaccines by not allowing frivolous and junk lawsuits to stand in the way of progress. It's very important -- (applause) -- it's very important that those who are developing vaccines in the private sector not be harassed and/or stopped by these junk lawsuits. I mean, we've got an emergency that we must deal with. And therefore, the faster a vaccine can be developed and get to market, the more lives will be saved.
I think the road ahead is clear. I don't think there's any doubt of where we have to go. We're going to provide better care and treatment to ease the suffering of the sick. We will strengthen our prevention efforts. And through focused research, we will create a vaccine and find a cure. There's no doubt in my mind.
Around the world, AIDS remains a source of great suffering. It's important for our fellow countrymen to remember. And we have an obligation to work to relieve the suffering, and we will.
But there's great hope and courage, and that's what really should sustain our fellow citizens, to hear the stories of hope and courage. This morning, I met a very brave, smart, capable woman from Philadelphia. She learned 13 years ago that she was HIV-positive. Doctors gave her two years to live. She described to us what it was like to be a mom of two, and have a doctor say, you've got two years to live.
She felt lost, and then was found at Silloam Ministries, the Director of which is here, Jim Sheehan. I'm proud you're here. Thanks for coming. (Applause.) He runs this program which is what he would describe as a spiritually-based program, a program to help elevate the spirit, to make sure people who are despondent and hopeless recognize there is a strong spirit inside them, and then nurture that spirit.
It's -- it is what sustained this brave soul who was told, you've only got two years to live. In other words, she described what it was like to be in a spiritually-based program, how uplifting it was. Today, she's working for her bachelor's degree. (Applause.)
What she shared with us is that she found there to be a dearth of counselors, those people -- there weren't enough loving souls willing to help somebody else realize that they've got a hopeful future. So that's why she's going back to school. It's an amazing story, you see, somebody who was -- say you'll die in two years, now is saving lives. And that's what -- (applause.) But let me put it in her words: "The doctor gave me two years to live, and now it's been 13. So I'm supposed to be here. I am supposed to be doing something with this."
And what she's doing with this, she's using her intellect and her love to help somebody else realize that they are supposed to be here. She is -- she's doing something beautiful, and she has shown that with hope, life can triumph. And that sustains us. That sustains us in doing our duty here in America and across the world, because we want hope to triumph for all.
I want to thank you for giving me a chance to come by and visit with you today. Thank you for your love and compassion. May God bless you all, and may God continue to bless our country. Thank you very much.
END 11:23 A.M. EDT