Pelosi Remarks at Closing Session of XIX International AIDS Conference

Jul 27, 2012
Press Release

Contact: Nadeam Elshami/Drew Hammill, 202-226-7616

Washington, D.C. – Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi delivered remarks today at the closing session of the 19th International AIDS Conference. Below are the Leader’s opening remarks:

“Thank you all very much. Thank you all very much. Good afternoon. What a beautiful sight you are to see. Thank you, Dr. Diane Havlir, for your generous introduction and your tremendous leadership as the U.S. Co-Chair of this year’s International AIDS Conference. Watching the film and the slides, by all accounts this conference is a tremendous success. So we thank Dr. Diane Havlir and Dr. Elly Katabira for their great leadership in co-chairing this conference. Let’s give them our fullest appreciation. Thank you Dr. Katabira. San Franciscans take special pride in Diane Havlir’s role as the Chief of the HIV/AIDS at the University of California, San Francisco – because that is where this all began. This is where we started to turn the tide together.

“It was 31 years ago when we first heard in our community that doctors at UCSF – that would be the University of California, San Francisco – were seeing cases unlike anything they’d seen before, symptoms that harkened back to the Middle Ages. Many of you could tell this same story. Quickly, AIDS began to take a terrible toll. Soon, we were going to as many as two funerals a day. Quickly we know that this was an emergency and that we had to pull out all the stops. We expressed our grief in plays. We took comfort in the AIDS quilt. We had renewal and remembrance in the National AIDS Memorial Grove.

“Twenty-five years ago, when I was elected to Congress, in my first speech on the floor of the House, I said that I had come to Congress to fight against HIV/AIDS. After my comment, some colleagues said to me: ‘why would you want fighting AIDS to be your introduction to the Congress of the United States?’ Why did you say you came here to fight AIDS? I said: ‘I said it because that’s what I came here to do.’ But recognize that was the sign of the times in Washington, D.C.

“Meanwhile, in San Francisco, we were ground zero, as we saw it, of the AIDS assault – on our health, on our economy and on our community; on the lives of our dear friends. With death, denial, and discrimination against those with the disease, AIDS was not only a challenge to our scientific and medical professionals; it was a challenge to the conscience of all of us and it remains so to this day. We knew we had to organize, not just agonize – and organize, not agonize, and organize not agonize we did. Over time, we learned, as many of you gathered here did as well, that the AIDS virus is a very resourceful virus – it escaped defeat by mutating. And so too did we have to be resourceful. We adapted to the challenge, all of us. We were innovative in our thinking; pursuing new science; mobilizing in new ways; taking a fresh approach to prevention, to care, and research for a cure. All of it community based and evidence based. We knew early on that we needed an international mobilization against AIDS. We needed public-private and non-profit partnerships. We had to make a national decision to act.

“Here, in the United States Congress, our decision to act changed the lives of many people with HIV/AIDS, within our borders and around the world. With the leadership of Congressman Henry Waxman of California and Senator Ted Kennedy, we passed and funded the evidence and community-based Ryan White Care Act early on. We went further with our Minority AIDS Initiative and funding for pediatric AIDS care, and the list goes on and on. And most recently, with the passage of the Affordable Care Act, we are delivering substantial protections to people with HIV and AIDS. We worked in a bipartisan way, first with President Clinton to authorize and fund the Global Fund; then with President Bush to establish PEPFAR, thank you President Bush and President Clinton, and with President Obama to strengthen these initiatives. We thank President Obama for totally lifting the travel ban, enabling this International AIDS Conference to return to the United States for the first time since 1990. I was at that conference in San Francisco and I can tell you that we have come a long way. Not only because we don’t have the ban and therefore scientists and all could come and join in the exchange of ideas and the intellectual challenges in sharing ideas etcetera – but because of this conference so many people with HIV/AIDS from around the world join us. You are our strength, we welcome you especially.

“So I say that two decades after being criticized for mentioning the words ‘AIDS’ on the floor of Congress, I was proud, in my four years as Speaker of the House, to work with Congresswomen Nita Lowey, to work with Barbara Lee, to work with advocates on the outside like Bono, and others to double funding for global health from $4 billion to $8 billion per year.

“To make far-reaching progress and ‘turn the tide,’ action was needed and required from parliaments worldwide. On behalf of Members of Congress I want to welcome the many parliamentarians who were with us at this conference. Thank you for joining us because for our countries to be able to act, our legislative bodies must make a decision to move forward. And many have. Even in these difficult fiscal times, cutting back on our HIV/AIDS investments is a false economy that costs us more in the future in lives and in resources. HIV/AIDS is still adapting and so must we – to turn the tide together.

“George Bernard Shaw once said the sign of a truly intelligent person is that he, I might add, or she, is ‘moved by statistics.’ Clearly, everyone in this room meets that standard. Most of us though were also moved by individual stories. For many, our introduction to AIDS was one patient, one person at a time that led to these big statistic that are so staggering but all of you have many personal stories to tell. One of the personal stories that I have – I lost so many dear friends in California, and across the country – but I always remember Susie. Susie was the flower girl in my wedding. Susie died of AIDS, but not before becoming a champion fighting against the disease in schools, and colleges, and the rest. My patch in the AIDS quilt was stitched in her memory. Coming together here, again, many have your own stories to share. These stories have brought us to this conference.

“Speaking to you at this final session, again I say by all accounts this conference is a tremendous success. We leave here with increased optimism – whether about advancements in science or prevention of mother-to-child transmissions. Yet this optimism must not make us complacent; it cannot, it must instead heighten our resolve. We have an obligation to be innovative and courageous in our thinking. Where there is scientific opportunity, we have a moral obligation to fund it. Where there are people in need of drugs and care, communities in need of protection, we have a moral obligation to provide it. And where there is discrimination, we have a moral obligation to continue to fight it.

“On the brink of the AIDS-free generation, we must carry on with determination, hope, and courage. Courage is one of the defining qualities that we always must bring to this. In doing so, we will succeed in turning the tide together. Thank all of you, to every one of you for your leadership, your activism, for your commitment to ending HIV/AIDS once and for all. Once and for all. Congratulations to all of you for making the 19th International AIDS Conference such a tremendous success. We all look forward to working together to bring an end to AIDS and to turning the tide together. Thank you all very much.”