Washington, D.C. – Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi delivered remarks at the Friends of the Global Fight Against AIDS, TB and Malaria Breakfast. Below are the Leader’s remarks:
“Good morning, everyone. Thank you Michael for your introduction and for bringing us all quickly up to the podium.
“There’s so much to say, so many leaders in this room on this really important issue, so many leaders in the fight who fight against HIV/AIDS. It’s an honor to be here with Bill Gates, who is bringing entrepreneurial thinking, evidence-based effectiveness to all of this. Thank you to Bill and Melinda for your extraordinary leadership and your commitment of up to $500 million that you announced – stunning. Your generosity challenges the conscience of the Congress, and again all of the decision makers from across the world, to do more – and to do more and in a very smart way.
“Bill talked about clinics. And I want to mention that in my travels with my colleagues on this subject, when we visited India on the subject, and Jim McDermott – I don’t know if he’s still here, but he has been going in India over and over again on the subject of AIDS – I know that he would agree with me that when you go to India now and talk to people about HIV/AIDS – I’ve said this before he may blush at it: they consider Bill Gates a saint.
“Chairman Royce, Chairman of our Foreign Affairs Committee, mentioned that our Ranking Member on Armed Services, Adam Smith, is here. I mentioned Jim McDermott, but two others I want to mention really have been champions in this fight for a very long time, fighting for the money. And that is our Ranking Member of the Appropriations Committee, Congresswoman Nita Lowey – in the fight from day one, Congresswoman. Barbara Lee must be here because her heart beats to this.
“From the very first day she was in Congress, she had an amendment on the floor, and she got on a plane the next day to go to the AIDS conference in Durban. So that tells you when that was. And all of us are pleased to be here. Again Dr. Dybul, thank you for your leadership on all of this as well.
“So again, I wanted to acknowledge some of my colleagues. You will hear from them. But I came to Congress 26 years ago, and when I came it was considered courageous or almost foolish to mention the word ‘AIDS’ on the floor of the House. You can do this privately. You can talk amongst yourselves. But why would you want to stand up in front of Congress and use this word? Nobody knows that better than Dr. Fauci. He was there at the time testifying on this subject. And I think there’s a point I’d like to make: as hopeful as we want to be and the rest, we never thought 25 years ago that 25 years later we would still not have a cure. Did we think that?
“We kept thinking: ‘If only we could keep our friends alive coming from San Francisco, if we could only keep them alive for the next intervention.’ The next intervention came. It took too long to come so we lost a lot of people in the meantime. And so when we talk about the dream of an AIDS-free generation, we had that dream 25 years ago. But as Mr. Gates said: this is a very resourceful disease. These diseases are resourceful. They mutate, and so do we have to be resourceful in how we deal with it.
“All weekend in San Francisco there were vigils and ceremonies at the National AIDS Memorial Grove. I mention that because we feel that we were ground zero in this. There were many ground zeros, but we were one of them. And I was very proud of the next day – one of the pictures in Monday’s paper was my granddaughter, four years old, with her mother showing the names of friends who have died of HIV/AIDS. I was proud because we were teaching another generation right away what our responsibilities are, but also thinking of those friends who died. Again we just thought: ‘If you could just hang on another year.’ But again, some did, and they’re with us, and God bless that and God bless all the scientists for making that possible.
“And the reason I say that is because it’s all about hope. And I thank all of you for what you do. Our efforts in Congress have grown enormously from when it was taboo to say the word on the floor of the House practically, to now when we are so much in the lead. And that happened right back in the ‘90s. And it’s not only about HIV/AIDS. It’s been said it’s about HIV/AIDS, malaria, and tuberculosis. And for a while, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation was giving more money for malaria than the Congress of the United States. That’s a pretty remarkable thing, as I said: a challenge to our conscience to do the right thing for all of this.
“Because it’s the right thing to do but, as has been mentioned over and over again, just ignoring it was totally unsustainable to the economies of so many of these countries, where compassionate charity was not enough. But happily, charity, which kind of has its own return to those who are giving, is an important part of this and that’s where hope springs from. I hear people say: ‘Why should I hope?’ Well, you hope because of science. You have hope because of evidence-based review of what works and what doesn’t.
“And so again, we’re grateful to President Clinton for his role in helping create the Global Fund. We’re grateful to President Bush – God Bless him for PEPFAR and the hope it gave people when we went to clinics in South Africa, you remember Barbara? People said: ‘I never would come near a clinic before because why would I? I’d just reveal myself for what my vulnerability is. But now I have hope because of PEPFAR.’ So we have faith in science, we have faith in the charity of others, that gives people hope sitting right there between faith and charity. And we’re grateful, of course, to President Obama for the announcements that he has made, which you are familiar with.
“And my time limits – I think I’m going over them. Again you know what [President Obama’s accomplishments] are and we’re proud of the role he continues to take in all of this. So again, we should have total impatience that we don’t have a cure yet. But we should be thankful for what progress has been made. And again, the public-private partnerships, the nonprofit involvement, the leadership on this is something that has its own synergy. But Congress has its own responsibilities. We have honored them, whether it’s supporting President Clinton, President Bush, President Obama – it’s been bipartisan across the board and that is a part of the strength that we have. Our arguments in Congress are best served when we can say: ‘This is part of something that is global.’
“And I’ll just close by going back 25 or 26 years ago to when this first came upon us in San Francisco. We knew from day one that we had to address what was very personal to us – burying two of our friends in a day – it was very personal to us. But everybody involved knew from day one that we could only deal with this challenge if we dealt with it globally. And so right from the start in San Francisco, part of our initiative was the international mobilization against HIV and AIDS. And look at you, look in this room to see how you have brought this globally – not that I’m taking anything out of San Francisco. But nonetheless, I take pride that there was recognition from the start. You want to help this person who you’re holding in your arms, who is going to leave us. It’s not just your personal intention. It’s not just our local efforts, however important they have been. It’s about addressing it globally.
“Thank you for your leadership in addressing it globally. Because the statistics are staggering, but the problem is individual and personal. And every single person who is saved is a blessing to us. But every single person that is infected has to know that we have a direct tie to them, however global out there. It’s personal in our faith, in our hope and in our charity.
“Thank you all very much.”