Remarks by President Bush on Compassion and HIV/AIDS

Jun 23, 2004, 01:00 ET from White House Press Office

    WASHINGTON, June 23 /PRNewswire/ -- The following are remarks by President
 Bush on compassion and HIV/AIDS:
                               People For People
                           Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
     10:42 A.M. EDT
     THE PRESIDENT:  Thank you all.  Thanks for coming.  Please be seated.
 Thanks for coming.  The person who introduces me in the White House better
 look out for his job.  (Laughter.)  Your mother said, get out of the middle of
 the road when a truck is coming.  My mother said, keep your speeches short.
     Thanks for having me.  It's great to be back in this compassionate city.
 I think it's called the City of Brotherly Love, and that's what we're here to
 talk about today, is brotherly love.
     First I want to thank my friend, Herb Lusk, for inviting me back to the
 Greater Exodus Baptist Church. I've been here before, the 4th of July.
 (Applause.) And I don't remember this building being here. At the time I said,
 Herb is a social entrepreneur who can make things happen. We're in this
 beautiful building because he made things happen. (Applause.) He believes, as
 I do, in the power of faith to touch every heart and to change every life.
     That's kind of the motto or the philosophy of the programs that emanate
 from this church. He is a -- he takes his admonition to love a neighbor just
 like you'd like to be loved yourself seriously. And so do the people who
 attend this church.
     I want to remind you that not only is there great spirituality here, but
 this is a church that trains people coming off welfare rolls to find work.
 Isn't that a wonderful -- (applause.) This is a church which helps feed the
 hungry, and finds shelter for the homeless. A church that helps families to
 stay together. This is a church that is giving generously of time and money.
 Herb Lusk is a general in the army of compassion. (Applause.)
     This is a -- and the other thing this church is doing is sending
 donations to fight AIDS around the world. (Applause.) I'm here to thank
 the church for doing that. I want to thank all the churches in the Greater
 Philadelphia area for the Stand for Africa Campaign. This is a great
 example of how people of faith can become involved in saving lives. It's a
 fine example for every American, faith or no faith.
     HIV/AIDS, you see, is a challenge, it's a direct challenge to the
 compassion of our country, and to the welfare of not only our nation, but
 nations all across the globe. It's really one of the great challenges of our
 time. This disease leaves suffering and orphans and fear wherever it reaches.
     Every man and woman and child who suffers from this addiction, from the
 streets of Philly to the villages of Africa, is a child of God who deserves
 our love and our help. And that's what I'm here to talk about today. We're
 provided -- we're determined to provide that help. We're committed to help
 those at home and help those abroad. To whom much has been given, much is
     I want to thank Tommy Thompson for being here. He's one of the ones I
 demand that he do his job to make sure that we do the best we can in America
 to help those who hurt. And Tommy is the -- he's the head of the Department of
 Health and Human Services. He's doing a fabulous job. I want to thank you for
 coming. (Applause.) His job is to work with the issue at home, as well as
 abroad. But to help him make sure the AIDS initiative, our international AIDS
 initiative works well, I went into the private sector and found somebody who
 had run a complex organization before. You see, we're moving a lot of money --
 and I'm about to describe it to you here in a minute -- but I want to make
 sure the money is actually spent wisely. See, we ought not to be measured on
 how much money we move, we ought to be measured on how many lives we save.
     So, therefore, I needed somebody who is a manager, somebody who could
 organize, somebody who could find that which works and make sure it continues
 to work well, and that which doesn't work, replace it with something that
 does. Somebody who is open-minded and focused on the results. And that is
 Ambassador Randy Tobias. I'm proud you're here, Randy. Thanks for coming.
     And working with Tobias is my friend, Dr. Joe O'Neill. He is the person --
 I like to call him the architect of the global AIDS initiative. Dr. Joe has
 been very much involved with HIV/AIDS for a long period of time. He's a
 pioneer in many ways, a deeply compassionate person and a man I'm proud to
 call friend. Thank you for coming, Joe. I'm glad you're here. (Applause.)
     We've got a lot of other important people here. We've got members of
 Congress -- and since Congress is in session, it's probably in my interest to
 introduce the congressmen. (Laughter.) Congressman Curt Weldon and Congressman
 Jim Greenwood are with us today, two really fine members. (Applause.) Senator
 Specter flew on the airplane, he had to get back for some votes, but he sent
 his better half -- and I emphasize "better half." (Laughter.) I want to thank
 Mrs. Specter for coming today. (Applause.) City Councilman Jack Kelly, as well
 -- is here, as well.
     Members from the church are here. We've got bishops from different
 religions, and I am honored you are here. We've got people who have heard the
 call and who want to serve, are here. We've got a volunteer who is here, a
 person named Pat McDonough. I met her at the airport. There she is. Pat, thank
 you for coming. (Applause.) She is a volunteer at Silloam. I'll be talking
 about Silloam pretty soon. It's a spiritually-based program designed to help
 save lives. You'll hear some stories about this locally-based grassroots
 organization, which depends upon people such as Pat to show up and volunteer.
     And so the reason I bring up Pat -- first of all, what she does, she's a
 massage therapist for people affected by HIV/AIDS. She uses her hands to help
 reflect her heart and make people more comfortable in their pain. You know,
 when you've got somebody who loves somebody helping them through their pain,
 the effect is not only physical, it can be spiritual, as well. And I want to
 thank Pat for volunteering.
     My call to people in Philadelphia who want to love their neighbor is to
 find programs such as Silloam, or the programs in Herb's church, and say, I
 want to help. To me, it's patriotic to love a neighbor like you'd like to
 loved yourself.
     I appreciate the example, Pat, that you have set. And I'm honored you are
 here, and thank you for coming. (Applause.)
     Every day in our world, 8,000 lives are lost to the AIDS pandemic -- 8,000
 people a day. We are fighting one of the great tragedies of human history. And
 it's important for our fellow citizens to understand that this is a great
 tragedy. See, when you see a great tragedy, people will respond. This isn't a
 minor tragedy. It's just not a blip in history. It is a great tragedy. That's
 how I view it. That's how others here view it, as well.
     Tens of millions of people are living with HIV virus. More than two
 million of them are children under the age of 15. It's really difficult to
 think about that kind of injustice, isn't it, about despair coming so early to
 boys and girls who are so young. That's the problem we face. That's a problem
 we'll deal with. AIDS is an individual tragedy for all who suffer, and a
 public health catastrophe that threatens the future of many nations.
     In some African countries, the percentage of adults infected with HIV is
 as high as one-third. In our own country, nearly a million of our fellow
 Americans have the virus, and 40,000 more contract it each year.
     Yet, there are reasons to be encouraged and hopeful and optimistic in the
 fight against AIDS. HIV is no longer a hopeless death sentence, and that's a
 positive development. New drugs and new treatments are dramatically extending
 and improving lives. The scientists and researchers who develop these drugs
 are some of the great humanitarian heroes of our time, and we thank them for
 their work, and we will fund their work.
     Their work has made broader treatment, even in the poorest of countries, a
 realistic hope. And proven methods of prevention are showing the spread of
 this disease -- are slowing the spread of this disease in some parts of the
 world. In other words, prevention -- we're beginning to understand how to
 prevent the disease from spreading. HIV/AIDS can be beaten. We're committed to
 ending the plague. America is committed to continue to leading the world in
 ending the plague. (Applause.)
     We're fully engaged in this global fight against AIDS -- I mean fully
 engaged. Our nation took the lead in sounding the global fund. We remain the
 world's largest contributor to the fund. We're setting the example for others
 to follow. That's what a leader does. America leads so that others will
     To expand these efforts, a year and a half ago I announced the Emergency
 Plan for AIDS Relief. That's the plan that Dr. O'Neill is the architect of. I
 called for $15 billion over five years to combat the spread of HIV in other
 countries, and to provide treatment and care to 10 million people affected by
 HIV. Earlier this year, Congress provided $2.4 billion for my emergency plan -
 - in other words, they're beginning to fund the plan. And I thank them for
 that. I want to thank the members of Congress who are here. (Applause.)
     I call upon Congress to make sure they fully fund the plan. The first
 portion, $350 million, began reaching people in need six weeks ago -- only six
 weeks ago, I might add. (Applause.) That is the fast -- that is faster than
 any major international anti-AIDS effort has ever been implemented. Because
 our help cannot get there fast enough, there is a pandemic on the continent.
 We need to move quickly.
     We've identified 14 nations in Africa and the Caribbean in need of urgent
 help. The global fund and bilateral funding really means we're reaching all
 around the world. We're focused on 14 nations where the pandemic is most
 acute. Let's go where the problems are the toughest, I said. Let's bring
 America -- let's bring America to where -- where people suffer the most. We
 want to tackle the toughest problems in this country, not the easiest ones.
 We'll leave the easier ones for other people. (Applause.)
     In these countries, the money is funding clinics, buying drugs, paying for
 treatments, supporting faith-based groups, training health care workers. The
 funds are making a difference already. In just a few months, the Reach Out
 clinic in Uganda -- one of these little centers of heroism in the midst of
 disease -- in Uganda more than doubled the number of patients it is treating
 with life-extending antiretroviral drugs. In other words, we're beginning to
 get it out. We're beginning to -- we're beginning to see results. Suddenly,
 there's new hope among those who seek help and those who give it.
     See, when they get the antiretroviral drug, there's a Lazarus effect --
 (applause) -- and people, all of a sudden, say, I have hope. And when others
 have hope -- when someone has hope, that spreads to other people. There's
 nothing better than a hopeful society in dealing with the pandemic. A hopeful
 society means you think you can win. A non-hopeful society says, I surrender.
 America is not going to surrender to the pandemic. (Applause.)
     One of the workers in the clinic describes it this way: "We are
 experiencing something very beautiful. Our clients will have a chance to
 continue to live." I want to thank you all for your work.
     Jennifer Birungi is a widow who lives in Uganda's capital, Kampala. She
 has two children. She has HIV, and earlier this year she was diagnosed with
 meningitis. It's a terrible disease under any circumstance. But that one is
 especially devastating for people with HIV. The doctors will tell you the
 combination of HIV and meningitis is deadly. Without treatment, her life
 expectancy would have been six days. Because America acted, because the
 American people acted, she's getting treatment, and the extra years she now
 hopes for will mean everything to her children. (Applause.)
     For too long, anti-AIDS programs offered too little treatment for those
 who had already contracted the disease. And so today we're helping other
 nations to buy drugs -- this is one of the focuses of Randy and Joe -- so that
 we can extend lives. Because, you see, every life matters to the Author of
 life, and so they matter to us.
     Today, I announce a second round of funding in the Emergency Plan for AIDS
 Relief. More than $500 million will be soon on its way. Congress needs to
 release the money. (Applause.) These grants will provide more antiretroviral
 treatments and promote prevention efforts, care for children who lost their
 parents to AIDS -- there's a lot of orphans around the continent of Africa.
 You've got 14- and 15-year-old kids raising their brothers and sisters. So
 part of the effort is to provide love and hope for these brave young kids who
 have been handed an incredibly tough burden, an awesome burden.
     We want to help build and equip hospitals and clinics. In other words, we
 want the infrastructure to be there. Part of the money goes to make sure
 there's an infrastructure. I mean, we really don't care here in America if it
 takes a bicycle or a moped to get antiretrovirals out of these big cities, but
 that's what we're going to do. And part of the challenge we face is to help
 poor countries have the capacity to absorb the drugs and compassion of
 America. That's one of our challenges.
     I want to thank the Congress, again, and the taxpayer, for their
 generosity. This is a vital initiative. Let's make sure the resources keep
 coming on a timely basis.
     Today, I'm also announcing that we're adding Vietnam to the emergency
 plan. In other words, we have 14 countries; we're adding a 15th country. Now,
 after a long analysis by our staff, we believe that Vietnam deserves this
 special help. We're putting a history of bitterness behind us with Vietnam.
 The reason why -- (applause) -- the reason why the decision was made is
 because the nation has experienced a rapid rise in HIV infections -- a rapid
 rise -- especially among the young.
     And Vietnam is cooperative and wants help. In other words, they recognize
 they have a problem -- which, by the way, is an important part of battling the
 pandemic. People have got to say, I've got a problem, come and help us. It's
 hard in certain countries that people say, we don't have a problem, you know,
 in denial. In the meantime, people are dying. Part of diplomacy, by the way,
 good diplomacy says to leaders, I think you need to listen to the truth, and
 the truth will set you free and help people survive.
     And so, therefore, we're sending up to the Congress a notification that
 Vietnam is now going to receive -- be a part of the 15 -- now 15 nation focus,
 and want the Vietnamese to hear, together we'll fight the disease. You've got
 a friend in America. (Applause.)
     We will continue to confront the disease abroad, and we will confront it
 here at home, as well. I want our fellow citizens to understand that we can --
 we can work in Africa, and we can work in America at the same time. We've got
 plenty of capacity. (Applause.) These efforts are not mutually exclusive,
 they're complementary, they're complementary.
     The number of women diagnosed with AIDS has risen in America. That is a
 fact. For African Americans between the ages of 25 and 44, the prime of life,
 AIDS is the second leading cause of death. We've got to deal with it here at
 home, as well. (Applause.)
     AIDS is finding more victims beyond our cities. AIDS victims now are in
 our suburbs and in the rural heartland. Neither individuals, nor society, nor
 government can afford to be complacent, and we will not relent against the
 battle of AIDS here in America. My latest budget commits more than $17 billion
 to prevent and treat AIDS in America, and to find a cure. This is a 27-percent
 increase from the budgets of 2001. (Applause.)
     It's one thing to spend money, it's another thing to spend it wisely. And
 so today I want to talk about a three-part strategy to make sure that we're
 effective here at home. First, we will provide better care and treatment to
 those suffering from HIV and AIDS, better treatment and care. We will act as
 quickly as possible to get lifesaving drugs to people with the greatest need.
     In 10 states, hundreds of AIDS patients are waiting for access to life-
 extending treatments. In other words, there's long lines. Some of these people
 have been waiting for months. That seems like a problem that we can deal with,
 Tommy. And we're prepared to help deal with it. So we're going to provide $20
 million, effective today, to extend lifesaving drugs -- (applause) -- the
 purpose of which is to deliver lifesaving drugs to the men and women who are
 waiting. In other words, there shouldn't be lines here. And we're going to
 deal with the lines.
     We will also get help to those who need it by making sure that the federal
 programs are focused on saving lives. Our nation's most important AIDS
 legislation, the Ryan White Care Act, has done a lot of good, a lot of good
 over the years, by funding groups that provide care and services to AIDS
 patients. Yet the law was written more than a decade ago, when those with AIDS
 had little hope. So the law is concerned largely with caring for the sick and
 dying, instead of helping AIDS patients to lead longer and healthier lives. In
 other words, there's a different focus now because things have changed,
 technology has changed, medicines are changing how people can live with AIDS.
     When the Ryan White Care Act is reauthorized next year, I propose to make
 it stronger and more effective by focusing resources on life-extending care,
 such as antiretroviral drugs and doctor visits and lab tests. This kind of
 care was just a dream 20 years ago. It is a reality today. And we will work
 with Congress to make sure that as many patients as possible are receiving the
 modern care they deserve. (Applause.)
     We need to change the way that money under the Ryan White Care Act is
 provided to care-givers and states and communities. Today, funding decisions
 are made according to a rigid geographical formula that takes too little
 account of the most urgent needs. In other words, you can't set priorities --
 that's what that means.
     In some areas of the country -- countries, (sic) there are more severe
 cases. There are particular problems among minority women. There are fewer
 resources to handle its case load. In those cases, Tommy Thompson, the
 Secretary of Health and Human Services, should have the flexibility to cut
 through the red tape and get the money quickly to where it is needed. That's
 what we're going to propose to the Congress. Let us set priorities and make
 sure the resources fund those priorities. That makes sense, with taxpayers'
 money, it seems like to me. We must hold accountable organizations that
 receive federal help to fight AIDS by keeping track of their progress. People
 shouldn't fear that. They ought to -- say, are you doing the job? Are lives
 being saved? Are your lines too long? If they are, why? Are you getting out
 the word? Are you doing what we asked? You see, we're interested in the
 people's lives, not the bureaucratic process.
     We must be sure that any organization that is effective in AIDS is
 eligible for federal help, by the way -- effective in fighting AIDS is
 eligible for help. And that includes faith-based groups. See, there are --
 (applause.) The faith-based groups are making a huge difference on the
 continent of Africa; they need to be making a huge difference here at home, as
 well. (Applause.)
     For many AIDS patients, especially those who live in low-income areas or
 rural areas, a local church program or community health center is their only
 source for treatment and support. And to be frank about it, the church is the
 only place many people feel comfortable going to share their burdens.
 Sometimes, they don't feel so comfortable sharing their burdens in a church.
 And when that's the case, the church needs to make sure people do feel
 comfortable in sharing the burden. But, nevertheless -- (applause.) The way I
 like to put it is, faith-based programs deserve the support of our government
 when they're effective, not to be discriminated against. People shouldn't fear
 the fact if there's a cross on the wall and an AIDS program in that building.
 We ought to welcome that. We ought not to fear the Star of David on a wall and
 an AIDS program ensconced in the building. We ought to welcome it, because the
 motivation by the people of faith is a motivation to help heal the hurt.
     The second part of a domestic strategy to fight AIDS is prevention. I
 think it's really important for us to focus on prevention. We can learn from
 the experiences of other countries when it comes to a good program to prevent
 the spread of AIDS, like the nation of Uganda. They've started what they call
 the A-B-C approach to prevention of this deadly disease. That stands for:
 Abstain, be faithful in marriage, and, when appropriate, use condoms. That's
 what A-B-C stands for. And it's working. I like to call it a practical,
 balanced and moral message. I say it's working because Uganda has cut its AIDS
 infection rate to 5 percent over 10 years. Prevention works. (Applause.)
     I think our country needs a practical, effective, moral message. In
 addition to other kinds of prevention, we need to tell our children that
 abstinence is the only certain way to avoid contacting HIV. (Applause.) It
 works every time. Children have a way of living up or down to our
 expectations. If we want them to lead healthy and responsible lives, we must
 ask them to lead healthy and responsible lives. (Applause.)
     This message, I know, is the primary duty of moms and dads. It's not the
 primary duty of the government. I fully recognize that. However, government
 can help. That's why I have proposed to double federal funding for programs
 that help local groups spread the most effective way to prevent the spread of
 AIDS, which is to teach children to make the right choices in life.
     Our national prevention efforts also depend on HIV testing as a routine
 part of health care. That makes sense to me, it should to you. I mean, how can
 you solve a problem until you diagnose the problem. Roughly, a quarter of the
 people with HIV do not know they have it. That makes it hard to treat people
 who don't know they have it. They aren't getting the treatment, of course, and
 they're unknowingly spreading the majority of new infections.
     Testing now is easier than ever. My administration is encouraging health
 care providers to test for HIV routinely, to save lives, that's why we're
 doing that. Across America, June 27th is National HIV Testing Day. (Applause.)
 For the sake of their health and for the sake of the health of others, I urge
 all Americans at risk to get the test. You'll be -- by getting the test,
 you'll be making a significant contribution to making sure that we arrest the
 spread of HIV/AIDS.
     Another way to prevent the spread of AIDS is to fight drug addiction.
 (Applause.) This is one more aspect -- in other words, the spread of AIDS
 through sharing needles is one more aspect of the terrible grief and
 destruction that drug abuse causes across America. I proposed to Congress
 increased funding for substance abuse treatment by $150 million next year. The
 reason I did so is because we've got an issue in America that we've got to
 deal with straight up. (Applause.) And I want to make sure that all treatment
 providers can utilize this money.
     Listen, sometimes programs work, kind of the clinical approach works to
 help people kick drugs and alcohol. But a lot of times it requires a change of
 heart. If you change your heart, you can change your habits. If you change
 your heart, you change your life. (Applause.) And that's why it's important to
 make sure the faith community can access federal money to heal the hurt that
 drug addiction causes.
     All these measures are important and will allow more people with AIDS to
 live longer and better lives. Yet, we must, and will, beat this disease once
 and for all. So the third element of our strategy to fight AIDS in America and
 around the world is to intensify the search for a vaccine and for a cure.
     Just two weeks ago, at the G8 Summit in Sea Island, Georgia, America
 joined with Japan and Germany and Great Britain and France and other allies to
 establish the Global HIV Vaccine Enterprise. What that means is we're going to
 make a major commitment by the world's best scientists to defeat HIV/AIDS.
     By the way, we've got some great scientists here in our own country. At
 the NIH, we've got some great scientists who have dedicated a lifetime to
 finding the vaccine and a cure. It makes sense to have a collaborative effort
 with great scientists from all over the globe. This is a global problem. So we
 need to work together and share information.
     As part of the effort, the United States will establish a new HIV Vaccine
 Research and Development Center. I asked the question to Tommy whether Dr.
 Fauci approved of this. He's -- he's one of the leaders in the world of
 developing the cure. He said, he's strongly in favor. I said, if Fauci is for
 it, I'm for it. The guy knows what he's doing. He's dedicated a lifetime, as
 has other scientists here in America, to finding the cure.
     Congress -- as we find the cure, it's very important for Congress to allow
 for the acceleration of new vaccines by not allowing frivolous and junk
 lawsuits to stand in the way of progress. It's very important -- (applause) --
 it's very important that those who are developing vaccines in the private
 sector not be harassed and/or stopped by these junk lawsuits. I mean, we've
 got an emergency that we must deal with. And therefore, the faster a vaccine
 can be developed and get to market, the more lives will be saved.
     I think the road ahead is clear. I don't think there's any doubt of where
 we have to go. We're going to provide better care and treatment to ease the
 suffering of the sick. We will strengthen our prevention efforts. And through
 focused research, we will create a vaccine and find a cure. There's no doubt
 in my mind.
     Around the world, AIDS remains a source of great suffering. It's important
 for our fellow countrymen to remember. And we have an obligation to work to
 relieve the suffering, and we will.
     But there's great hope and courage, and that's what really should sustain
 our fellow citizens, to hear the stories of hope and courage. This morning, I
 met a very brave, smart, capable woman from Philadelphia. She learned 13 years
 ago that she was HIV-positive. Doctors gave her two years to live. She
 described to us what it was like to be a mom of two, and have a doctor say,
 you've got two years to live.
     She felt lost, and then was found at Silloam Ministries, the Director of
 which is here, Jim Sheehan. I'm proud you're here. Thanks for coming.
 (Applause.) He runs this program which is what he would describe as a
 spiritually-based program, a program to help elevate the spirit, to make sure
 people who are despondent and hopeless recognize there is a strong spirit
 inside them, and then nurture that spirit.
     It's -- it is what sustained this brave soul who was told, you've only got
 two years to live. In other words, she described what it was like to be in a
 spiritually-based program, how uplifting it was. Today, she's working for her
 bachelor's degree. (Applause.)
     What she shared with us is that she found there to be a dearth of
 counselors, those people -- there weren't enough loving souls willing to help
 somebody else realize that they've got a hopeful future. So that's why she's
 going back to school. It's an amazing story, you see, somebody who was -- say
 you'll die in two years, now is saving lives. And that's what -- (applause.)
 But let me put it in her words: "The doctor gave me two years to live, and now
 it's been 13. So I'm supposed to be here. I am supposed to be doing something
 with this."
     And what she's doing with this, she's using her intellect and her love to
 help somebody else realize that they are supposed to be here. She is -- she's
 doing something beautiful, and she has shown that with hope, life can triumph.
 And that sustains us. That sustains us in doing our duty here in America and
 across the world, because we want hope to triumph for all.
     I want to thank you for giving me a chance to come by and visit with you
 today. Thank you for your love and compassion. May God bless you all, and may
 God continue to bless our country. Thank you very much.
     END                          11:23 A.M. EDT

SOURCE White House Press Office