Washington, D.C. - Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi spoke on the House floor today to commemorate World AIDS Day. Below are the Leader's remarks.
“Thank you very much Mr. Speaker. Mr. Speaker, today across the globe people are marking World AIDS Day. It's an opportunity to reflect on the progress we've made in the fight against HIV/AIDS, this pandemic, and to rededicate ourselves to ending the disease once and for all. World AIDS Day is an occasion to remember friends, family members, loved ones and millions of others lost to the disease. It is a solemn reminder of those still living with HIV/AIDS whether in the cities of the United States or in the villages of Africa, Asia or elsewhere. It is a reminder of the need to continue the fight, to keep investing in research and medical advances, to stay focused on new treatments, care, prevention and early, early intervention--key, a key element of quality of life--to expand housing opportunities for people with HIV/AIDS, to end discrimination.
“Yet it is also a reminder of how far we've traveled since the first World AIDS Day in 1988 and the first AIDS diagnosis which we acknowledged recently, the 30 year anniversary of the first AIDS diagnosis. In my hometown of San Francisco, we learned early on the terrible toll of HIV/AIDS, the toll it could take on a community. But that knowledge, as sad as it was, drove us to action, advocacy and progress. Because we had suffered so much we could also become a model for the country and indeed the world with our community-based solutions in regard to prevention, to care and to research for a cure or vaccine. This is something I've been very proud of and really it found its way into legislation: the Ryan White Care Act, housing opportunities for people with HIV/AIDS, growing increased funding for NIH research, expanded investments in prevention, care, treatment and to the ban on federal funds for syringe exchange, something very important if you are going to prevent AIDS.
“Beyond our borders we have extended care to millions in the developing world. Early on in our community when we would have an AIDS mobilization day, right from the start--and Congresswoman Woolsey can attest to this--we understood that if you're going to meet the challenge of HIV/AIDS at home, you have to have a mobilization that was global, that was global, because AIDS knew no borders. But it had to be global.
“And so we would have these vigils of thousands of people, walking in a great solemn way to talk about ending AIDS globally. Almost right from the start--although we were healing it, very personally, very locally, in our community--beyond our borders, that's why we extended care to millions in the developing world, increased resources for PEPFAR and the Global Fund, and I commend President Bush for his commitment on PEPFAR and the commitment that he made there.
“And I congratulate President Obama for the statement he made this morning which increased funding for the Ryan White Care Initiative, that supports care provided by HIV medical clinics across the country and additional funding for AIDS activity, drug program, initiative for people with HIV/AIDS, and his commitment of a new target of helping 6 million people around the world get treatment by the end of 2013. It's very important. And I commend Secretary Clinton for her strong leadership and her statement about ridding AIDS, especially among children, as soon as possible.
“The challenges that we have faced over the years, some have disappeared. When I first came to Congress I was sworn-in in a special election, and they told me your not allowed to speak, you just raise your hand and say, ‘Yes I support and defend the Constitution.'
“But then the Speaker, Speaker Wright said: ‘Would the gentlelady from California wish to address the House?'
“And I had been told not to address the House, and if I did to be very, very brief. So I stood up and acknowledged my family, my father Thomas D'Alesandro served as a Member of Congress so he was on the floor of the Congress, and my family and thanked them all, my constituents, and then my one sentence was: ‘I came here to fight against HIV/AIDS.' And that was about it.
“Well my colleagues, who had told me to be brief then said, ‘Why would you even mention that this was 24 years ago. Why would you even mention that? The first thing that you want to say to Members of Congress when you get here is that you're here to fight HIV/AIDS, why did you say such a thing?'
“And I said: ‘Well, I said such a thing because that's why I came here. But I never, I never would have thought that 24 years ago that we would project into another generation now, that we would not have a cure for HIV/AIDS. Never would have thought.
“But in the meantime we've reduced discrimination, we've expanded prevention care, deepened our search, actually mobilized support from people like Bono on the outside using his celebrity to attract attention to the issue. Public policy, whether its President Bush, President Clinton and now with his Global Initiative and President Obama--we're at a completely different place then we were then when they wouldn't even have an AIDS ribbon in significant places in Washington, D.C. Today, we all proudly wear that ribbon and again it's a day of reminder but it's also a day when we act upon those reminders of the work that needs to be done and again it's a global challenge. It's a very personal issue, so the statistics are staggering but we think of them one person at a time and that is what we have to act upon. This Congress has been great on the subject. I hope that we will continue to honor our responsibility.
“And again, on AIDS Day in San Francisco today, we are celebrating the 20th anniversary of the AIDS Memorial Grove. This is something that this Congress designated as a national memorial. A national memorial, this has great significance for our community for sure, I think very appropriately so, but also for the issue of AIDS.
“So when you go there, you have to go to the AIDS memorial when you go west to see it as a spirit of renewal, a garden, a grove, always is that fresh new grove. As we have it as a remembrance to, of those we've lost and comfort to their families.
“So with that, again Mr. Chairman, Mr. Speaker, I join others in calling to our colleagues' attention and those who follow Congress the importance of finding HIV/AIDS to people, to communities, to our country, to the world. For our good health, for our economy, for the success of individuals.”