Washington, D.C. - Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi delivered remarks at a dinner hosted by The Foundation for AIDS Research (amfAR). Leader Pelosi joined supporters, advocates, and activists of amfAR in reaffirming their shared commitment to work together to end AIDS. Below are the Leader's remarks as delivered:
“It is often said at an occasion such as this, what an honor it is to be here. Tonight, all of us can say with great sincerity what an honor it is to join amfAR, GBC Health, and their many friends on the eve of the 19th International AIDS Conference. I want to congratulate Bill Gates on receiving this year's amfAR Award of Courage. This award is perfectly named because courage, as well as commitment, are essential to this fight. Bill and Melinda Gates have courageously taken up the cause of fighting AIDS as their own. So too has amfAR's Chairman of the Board, Kenneth Cole. He was one of the first business leaders to use an ad campaign to raise awareness about AIDS. Imagine the courage it took to do this in 1985, two years before a president even uttered the word, ‘AIDS.'
“Thanks to the work by Congress and President Obama in 2009 to lift the travel ban on people with HIV/AIDS, the International AIDS Conference is returning to the U.S. for the first time since 1990. With 25,000 leaders, advocates, doctors, and researchers gathering from across the globe, we will listen, exchange ideas, and turn the tide together against AIDS.
“It was 31 years ago when we first heard that doctors at UCSF were seeing cases unlike anything they'd seen before, symptoms that harkened back to the Middle Ages. At the same time, across the country at Sloan-Kettering, one of amfAR's founding chairs, Dr. Mathilde Krim, was investigating a similar condition, unknown and unrecognizable to her fellow researchers. What would become AIDS took a terrible toll. Pretty soon, many of us were going to two funerals a day. Grief was expressed in plays. Comfort was found in an AIDS quilt and remembrance in an AIDS Memorial Grove.
“AIDS was an assault on our health, our economy and society, on the lives of our friends. It was a challenge to our scientists and our medical professionals. More than that, because of the fear and discrimination that sprung from it, it was a challenge to our conscience and remains so to this day. For leaders like Dr. Krim, Kenneth and Maria Cole, and Bill and Melinda Gates, and many of us in this room, the fight against HIV/AIDs has not been an issue, but an ethic - a value.
“What we learned quickly was that AIDS is a very resourceful virus - it escapes defeat by mutating. So too did we have to become resourceful. We adapted to the challenge - pursuing new science, mobilizing in innovative ways, being fresh in our thinking about prevention, treatment, and a cure. Thank you amfAR for being a model agent for change.
“From the start, amfAR and its allies knew that real progress could only come with a strong public-private partnership. As amfAR's founding national Chairwoman, Elizabeth Taylor, told the House Budget Committee in 1990, ‘AIDS is a major national crisis.' Only with government support, she said, could we invest ‘billions of dollars of research' and ‘build centers, hospices, care units.'
“We answered the call locally, nationally, and globally. Our international mobilization against AIDS led us to create the Global Fund, work with President George W. Bush to establish PEPFAR, and partner with President Obama to strengthen these efforts. With sustained American leadership and shared responsibility from the international community, millions of lives in the poorest countries have been saved and we are building toward the day when we completely eliminate new HIV infections among children. Here at home, the Affordable Care Act has meant remarkable benefits for people living with HIV/AIDS.
“At this critical juncture, on the brink of an AIDS-free generation, we have a responsibility to continue to be innovative in our thinking. And where there is scientific opportunity, we have a moral responsibility to invest. In order to make AIDS history, we must make more progress for the more than 34 million people living with HIV.
“George Bernard Shaw once said that ‘It is the mark of a truly intelligent person to be moved by statistics.' The people in this room are not only moved by statistics, we are also moved by the individual stories. For many of us, our introduction to AIDS was one person at a time.
“For the friends, loved ones, and all lost to AIDS, we must remember all we hold fast to: our hope, our resourcefulness, and our courage.
“Thank you, GBC Health! Thank you amfAR for leading the way!”