By Joe Rubino
U.S. Rep. Nancy Pelosi recalled Wednesday that before she was sworn in as a congresswoman for the first time in 1987, some fellow Democrats warned her not to say too much when she was introduced on the House floor.
When the time came and she was offered the microphone, she thanked her father and her constituents. She also mentioned her commitment to combating the AIDS crisis.
"In one sentence, I said, 'I am here to serve the people of San Francisco and I told them when they elected me that I came here to fight against HIV and AIDS,'" Pelosi said in a speech at the First United Methodist Church of Boulder, where she was recognized by the Boulder County AIDS Project on Wednesday.
"So I go back and I looked to these people who told me not to say a word and I thought, 'They'll be pleased. I barely spoke at all.' They said to me, 'Why on Earth would you ever say that you came here to fight against HIV and AIDS? Why would you want that to be the first thing this Congress knows about you?' I said, 'I said that because that is why I came to Congress.' Their rejection of my brief comments was a lesson I needed to learn about what we were up against."
Twenty-six years later, Pelosi, D-Calif. and now the House minority leader, is still combating HIV and AIDS in Congress, and while much of the stigma that existed in 1987 has dissipated, she knows her work is not over until an AIDS cure and an HIV vaccine have been discovered.
The Boulder County AIDS Project presented Pelosi with its local legends award, crediting Pelosi for pushing to accelerate development of an HIV vaccine, helping expand access to Medicaid for HIV patients and increasing funding for a variety of AIDS initiatives and programs.
Ana Hopperstad, executive director of the Boulder County AIDS Project, also thanked Pelosi for her work on the Affordable Care Act, the national healthcare reform bill that will provide options for uninsured people with pre-existing conditions, including those living with HIV and AIDS.
U.S. Rep Jared Polis, D-Boulder, introduced Pelosi to a crowd that included supporters, caregivers and recipients of the organization's services.
Pelosi and others said the fight against HIV and AIDS is still a work in progress.
"HIV is not over. We're still assisting people who come through our doors every day," Hopperstad said.
Pelosi said the U.S. needs to support science as a crucial part of the battle against the disease -- "science for prevention, science for a cure, science for care, science for a vaccine."
"Our country is lapsing in our public commitment to fund science, and we have to fight for more public funding for science to provide the answers," she said. "I believe science will provide the answer to our prayers."