METRO TEEN AIDS
WORLD AIDS DAY
December 1, 1997
I am so pleased to join Metro TeenAIDS for the presentation of the Ryan White Youth Service Awards on this, World AIDS Day. In his lifetime, Ryan White taught us many things -- he taught us courage, compassion and hope. Most of all, he taught us that we cannot ignore the impact that this devastating disease has on our nation's youth.
For the past ten years, Metro TeenAIDS has worked to protect the young people of the Washington, D.C. metropolitan area. Focusing primarily on young people, Metro TeenAIDS provides education programs and prevention resources to more than 100,000 area youth. From peer training to street outreach, Metro TeenAIDS fights this disease with knowledge and awareness -- providing our young people with the tools they need to stay healthy.
Efforts such as these are making a difference. Last year, for the first time in the history of this disease, the number of Americans diagnosed with AIDS declined, falling by six percent. There has been a sharp decline in the number of AIDS cases in both infants and children.
But before we celebrate that progress, we should all note -- particularly today, on World AIDS Day -- that globally, there is still so much to be done. Around the world, children and families are still devastated by this disease and as we heard recently, the numbers of those affected are even higher than we previously thought.
And, the reality is that we still do not have a cure. While the current treatments can help those with AIDS live longer, more productive lives, we must still strive to find a cure.
I want you to know that this Administration is working to end this epidemic, both in the U.S. and globally. We have increased funding for AIDS drug assistance 549% since taking office. Funding for the Ryan White CARE Act, which helps people access and maintain care, has increased by nearly 200%.
In May, 1997, President Clinton announced a comprehensive AIDS vaccine research initiative designed to lead to the development of an AIDS vaccine within the next 10 years.
We recognize that this is a growing challenge that will require a partnership between international organizations, federal, state and local governments and private industry and are committed to building this global network. My husband, the Vice President, and I, along with the members of this Administration, are committed to standing with you to continue to fight this disease until every man, woman and child in the world is safe from AIDS.
As a mother, I know firsthand the fear every parent faces about a child. Adolescents have a tendency to approach life with a fearless, nothing can happen to me' attitude. There are so many risky behaviors that our teens are exposed to -- through their peers, the media, the streets. As parents, how can we protect our children?
The answer, as Metro TeenAIDS has so aptly shown us, is through education and understanding. These are the first and most important steps in preventing risky behaviors that can lead to HIV and AIDS. And that is why we honor three individuals this evening whose work and achievements have promoted prevention and education in the fight against adolescent AIDS.
Our first honoree -- and a dear friend of mine -- is a woman who has led the U.S. effort on prevention, education and increased funding for research and new treatments. Secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services, Donna Shalala is at the forefront of those who are working to develop and implement policy that will address all of the issues impacting this global epidemic.
Under her tenure at the helm of HHS, increased funding and more rapid approval of experimental drugs has led to declines in both death rates and perinatal transmissions.
Secretary Shalala could not be with us this evening -- she is in India, a country which has more people suffering from AIDS than any other in the world -- working to build a global network to fight this disease. She is conducting outreach on HIV and AIDS and helping to spotlight the international effort.
Accepting on her behalf is Marsha Martin, Special Assistant to the Secretary. Since April, 1997, Marsha has been an advisor to the secretary on HHS programs, services and assistance for individuals with AIDS. To accept the Ryan White Youth Service Award presented to Secretary Shalala, please welcome Marsha Martin.