by Sandra Thurman
Director, Office of National AIDS Policy
Conference of Mayors
you Tom [Cochran]. It is an honor to be able to join you here this morning.
As mayors - you are the ones on the frontlines of each and every issue
that really matters. And in case that was just not enough to keep you
busy - I am thrilled to see that you are reaching across the ocean to
unite through "Cities 2000" with the mayors and the people of
over one year ago, President Clinton went to Africa to help Americans
and Africans begin to see each other through new eyes, and to create together
a bold new partnership for the new millennium.
our shared vision is one of hope and empowerment. It is a vision born
of the realization that we are a global community with a shared destiny.
And in this global community, both crisis and opportunity have no borders.
stands on a brink of a new day, the AIDS pandemic rages.
United States and Africa build a new partnership for growth and opportunity,
the AIDS pandemic rages.
we work together to build a better future for our children and grandchildren,
the AIDS pandemic rages.
the American family has AIDS. The African family has AIDS. And in a very
real way, we are all living with AIDS, and will be for generations to
AIDS is a plague of biblical proportion, and is claiming more lives than
the casualties lost in all wars this century combined. While many of us
have witnessed its devastation, it is almost impossible to grasp the grip
that AIDS has on villages across Africa and on many of your cities as
every day, in Africa, AIDS buries more than 5,500 women, men, and children,
and that number will more than double in the next few years. AIDS is now
the leading cause of death among all people of all ages in Africa -- and
among young adult African-American men here in the United States.
the epidemic rages on. Each day, 11,000 people in Africa become HIV infected
-- one every 8 seconds. Most of these new infections are among young people,
under the age of 25. And by 2005, more than 100 million people worldwide
will be HIV+.
In a host
of different ways, it is our children who are caught in the crossfire
of this relentless epidemic, and who are crying out for our help. Our
next generation is indeed in jeopardy.
African countries, between one-fifth and one-third of all children have
already been orphaned by AIDS, and the worst is yet come. Within the next
decade, more than 40 million children in Africa will be orphaned by AIDS,
and this tragedy will continue to grow for at least another 30 years.
a few short years, AIDS in Africa has wiped out decades of steady progress
in development and will soon double infant mortality, triple child mortality,
and slash life expectancy by 20 years or more. And AIDS has had a devastating
impact on economic growth as well -- striking down skilled workers and
forcing many companies to hire two employees for every one job -- assuming
that one will die of AIDS.
this tragedy is hope. Amidst this crisis is the opportunity to empower
women, to protect children, and to support families and communities in
the battle against AIDS. In villages across Africa, efforts are being
made to stem the rising tide of HIV infection, to prolong the lives of
those who are sick, and to stitch together a tapestry of family supports
for the growing millions of children orphaned by AIDS.
year, I visited South Africa, Uganda, and Zambia at the request of President
Clinton. Together with leaders from Congress and the private sector, we
went to bear witness to the AIDS emergency and to search for ways to increase
our support for sound and sustainable solutions.
During these trips, we were blessed to visit with some of the real heroes
in the battle against AIDS. From Cape Town to Kampala, we were inspired
by those who refused to give up or give in, despite the seemingly insurmountable
a woman from a small village outside Masaka, Uganda.
has lost 10 of her 11 adult children to AIDS. Today, at age 70, she is
caring for her 35 grandchildren. With loans from a village banking system,
she has begun farming, raising animals, and trading in sugar and cooking
oil. With the money she earns, she is now able to send 15 of her grandchildren
to school, provide modest treatment for the 5 who are HIV+, and begin
construction on a house big enough to sleep them all. In her spare time,
she participates in an organization called "United Women's Effort
to Save Orphans" -- founded by the first lady of Uganda, Mrs. Museveni
-- linking in solidarity thousands of women allied in the same great struggle.
women are not alone. From the young people doing street theater in Lusaka
to educate their peers about HIV to the support groups in Soweto caring
for people living with AIDS -- communities are mobilizing and creating
ripples of hope.
the faces of children and families living in a world with AIDS. Their
spirit, their determination, and their resilience lead us on.
must remember, the tragedy of AIDS is not slowly nearing its end, it is
just beginning to unfold. So as we struggle to move forward together --
the futures of these children and families compel us all to find ways
to do better, to be smarter, to move faster, and to develop whatever capacity
we lack, so we can gear up for the long haul.
experience has taught us some valuable lessons - as applicable in the
Africa as they are in the US -- as true in Denver as they are in Durban.
this fight requires a serious investment - of time, energy, and resources.
we pay a heavy price for the stigma that still surrounds AIDS.
this battle will be won or lost at the community level.
AIDS is everyone's problem -- and everyone must be part of the solution.
we must be vigilant against the growing misperception that AIDS in America
is no longer a lethal threat, a misperception that comes all too easily
to a nation weary from an eighteen year struggle.
we must find ways to affirm that we are a global community and our battle
against AIDS in America, in Africa, and around the world is a shared responsibility.
we must join our voices and pool our skills and our resources to begin
to keep pace with an epidemic that is out of control.
we must push past denial and blame and inevitability -- and toward a sense
of real solidarity symbolized by shared commitment, collaboration, and
close with the words of Frederick Douglas, another great African-American
civil rights leader:
is not light that is needed, but fire; it is not the gentle shoulder,
but thunder. We need the storm, the whirlwind, and the earthquake. The
feeling of the nation must be quickened and the conscience must be roused."
commit together to not squander the loss of the nearly 14 million people
around the world we have lost to AIDS, but instead build from this tragedy
a foundation for hope, a legacy of compassion, and a partnership forged
by our shared struggle.
wage this holy war together. And for the sake of the children, let us
pray we win.
and god bless you.
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