Washington D.C. -- Speaker Nancy Pelosi received an “Award of Courage” from amfAR at the research foundation's conference today on future directions in the fight against HIV/AIDS. amfAR's “Awards of Courage” are bestowed each year on select individuals in recognition of the vision, determination, and courage that mark them as leaders in the fight against AIDS. Other 2009 awardees are Senator Edward Kennedy, Dr. C. Everett Koop and Earvin “Magic” Johnson. Below are the Speaker's remarks as prepared:
“Thank you, Kenneth Cole, for that kind introduction. And thank you to amfAR for the 2009 amfAR Award of Courage.
“I am honored to be receiving this award along with three respected leaders in the fight against HIV/AIDS:
• Senator Edward M. Kennedy, whose forceful advocacy in the Senate for people living with HIV/AIDS helped invest federal research dollars to confront this crisis and created our existing system of care and treatment through enactment of the Ryan White CARE Act;
• Dr. C. Everett Koop, whose efforts in the very early days helped educate Americans about the risks of HIV/AIDS and about sensible prevention efforts; and,
• Magic Johnson, whose 1991 announcement that he was living with HIV showed the world his enormous courage, and whose philanthropy and AIDS advocacy have revealed his remarkable compassion.
“America and the world owe amfAR a debt of gratitude for your nearly quarter-century history of advancing HIV prevention, treatment and care. Your work has saved lives, achieved dignity for those living with the disease, and advanced research that is bringing help and hope to those with HIV/AIDS.
“Moments like this bring me back to my first day in Congress - and remind me to honor those who have helped us make phenomenal progress in the fight against HIV/AIDS.
“When I said in my first House floor speech in 1987 that I came to Congress to fight AIDS, people were shocked. Other Members asked me: ‘Why would you want to be labeled that way?'
“My reply was: ‘That's why I came to the Congress.' Because San Francisco had suffered the most, we now had an opportunity to be a model for America - and eventually the world.
“We have made a great deal of progress since then, but so much more work remains.
“As the new Kaiser Family Foundation survey shows, Americans' sense of urgency about HIV/AIDS has fallen, but serious challenges remain and our commitment remains strong.
“We simply cannot rest until we have done everything we can to prevent new infections, including ensuring access to effective interventions like needle exchange. We cannot rest until every person living with HIV has access to the care and medications they need to stay healthy. And we cannot rest until we have a cure.
“We can take heart from President Obama's pledge in his inspirational Inaugural Address to ‘restore science to its rightful place.' Some say we must choose between faith and science. We say that science is the answer to our prayers.
“That is why President Obama and Congress worked to invest $10 billion for lifesaving biomedical research in the recently enacted Recovery Act.
“With NIH-supported research, and the nearly $275 million contributed by amfAR, we will achieve the next great advances in HIV/AIDS prevention, treatment and care.
“Thank you again for honoring me with the 2009 amfAR Award of Courage. I will proudly display this award in the Speaker's Office so that all who visit will see this symbol of our continued commitment to fighting HIV/AIDS.”