November 8, 2011
Creating an AIDS-Free Generation
Transcript of remarks by U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton on November 8 at the National Institutes of Health.
Thank you. Thank you very much. Thank you. And it is, for me, a distinct personal pleasure to be back here at NIH, a set of institutions that I admire so much and which are so critically important not only to our own country and to the future of science here but indeed around the world.
I want to begin by thanking Francis Collins for his leadership and for the work that he has done. I well remember those times talking about your research and the extraordinary excitement around it, Francis.
And I want to thank Tony for his kind words but also his leadership. It’s not easy to follow one of the top 20 federal employees of all time. (Laughter.) But I think Government Executive Magazine got it just right – a richly deserved recognition.
As I came in, I saw some other friends: Dr. Harold Varmus, with whom I’ve had the privilege to work both when he was here at NIH and then in New York; Dr. Nora Volkow and her work which is so important; and Dr. John Gallin as well.
But for me, this is a special treat because here in this room are some of America’s best scientists and most passionate advocates, true global health heroes and heroines, in an institution that is on the front lines of the fight against HIV/AIDS.
I want to recognize some special people who are here today: Ambassador Eric Goosby, our Global AIDS Coordinator, and his predecessor, Mark Dybul; Lois Quam, the executive director of our Global Health Initiative; Dr. Tom Frieden from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention; UNAIDS Executive Director Michel Sidibe; and others who are part of this Administration’s global health efforts and the multilateral organizations with which we work.
I also want to acknowledge two people who could not be with us: first, USAID Administrator Dr. Raj Shah, who has had such a positive impact on our health and development work; and, second, I am delighted to announce our new special envoy. We love special envoys at the State Department. (Laughter.) Our new Special Envoy for Global AIDS Awareness: Ellen DeGeneres. (Applause.) And Ellen is going to bring not only her sharp wit and her big heart, but her impressive TV audience and more than 8 million followers on Twitter, to raise awareness and support for this effort. I know we can look forward to many contributions from Ellen and her loyal fans across the globe.
Now, many of you know because you were there: The fight against AIDS began three decades ago in June 1981. American scientists reported the first evidence of a mysterious new disease. It was killing young men by leaving them vulnerable to rare forms of pneumonia, cancer, and other health problems. Now, at first, doctors knew virtually nothing about this disease. Today, all those years later, we know a great deal.
We know, of course, about its horrific impact. AIDS has killed 30 million people around the world, and 34 million are living with HIV today. In Sub-Saharan Africa—where 60 percent of the people with HIV are women and girls—it left a generation of children to grow up without mothers and fathers or teachers. In some communities, the only growth industry was the funeral business.
Thirty years later, we also know a great deal about the virus itself. We understand how it is spread, how it constantly mutates in the body, how it hides from the immune system. And we have turned this knowledge to our advantage—developing ingenious ways to prevent its transmission and dozens of drugs that keep millions of people alive. Now, AIDS is still an incurable disease, but it no longer has to be a death sentence.
Finally, after 30 years, we know a great deal about ourselves. The worst plague of our lifetime brought out the best in humanity. Around the world, governments, businesses, faith communities, activists, individuals from every walk of life have come together, giving their time, their money—along with their heads and hearts—to fight AIDS.
Although the past 30 years have been a remarkable journey, we still have a long, hard road ahead of us. But today, thanks both to new knowledge and to new ways of applying it, we have the chance to give countless lives and futures to millions of people who are alive today, but equally, if not profoundly more importantly, to an entire generation yet to be born.
Today, I would like to talk with you about how we arrived at this historic moment and what the world now can and must do to defeat AIDS.
From its earliest days, the fight against HIV/AIDS has been a global effort. But in the story of this fight, America’s name comes up time and again. In the past few weeks, I’ve spoken about various aspects of American leadership, from creating economic opportunity to preserving peace and standing up for democracy and freedom. Well, our efforts in global health are another strong pillar in our leadership. Our efforts advance our national interests. They help make other countries more stable and the United States more secure. And they are an expression of our values—of who we are as a people. And they generate enormous goodwill.
At a time when people are raising questions about America’s role in the world, our leadership in global health reminds them who we are and what we do, that we are the nation that has done more than any other country in history to save the lives of millions of people beyond our borders.
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