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Office of the Press Secretary

For Immediate Release December 3, 1996
                        REMARKS BY THE PRESIDENT

The Oval Office

11:45 A.M. EST

THE PRESIDENT: This is World Aids Awareness Week -- and you also know I'm a little hoarse. I'm very excited about the progress we've made in the last four years. I'm determined to keep pressing until we have a vaccine and ultimately a cure.

And I'd like to ask the Vice President to sort of take over for me with the opening remarks, and then we'll hear from Secretary Shalala. We have some of our nation's top health officials, our top public health officials here. I thank them for coming, for their work, and I'd like to ask the Vice President to speak.

VICE PRESIDENT GORE: Thank you very much, Mr. President.

As you can tell, the President needs to conserve his vocal cords a little bit. He's had quite a lot to say about this topic of AIDS over the last four years, especially internally with this tremendous team that Secretary Shalala has pulled together and led on the President's behalf. And this is one of several briefings that the President has had periodically on the progress our country is making against HIV/AIDS.

And the experts here will provide some statistics to back these assertions, but let me just briefly, on behalf of the President, note that this administration has presided over a 40 percent increase in NIH-supported AIDS research, a 158 percent increase in Ryan White AIDS Treatment grants, a 24 percent increase in CDC-HIV prevention activities, a 96 percent increase for HUD's housing opportunities for people with AIDS program. He has greatly strengthened the office of AIDS research at NIH and, as a result of public health service guidelines recommending the use of AZT by HIV-positive pregnant women and their newborns, there has been a very encouraging 17 percent drop in the number of infants with perinatally acquired HIV infections -- those are the last statistics available from '94 to '95 -- also responding rapidly to FDA approval of a new class of AIDS therapies called protease inhibitors, with increases in funding for state AIDS drug assistance programs.

We have eased Social Security disability rules to speed approval of eligibility. And, of course, the President created the Office of National AIDS Policy at the White House and the Presidential Advisory Council on HIV/AIDS.

Last year, at the White House Conference on HIV and AIDS, the President asked me to preside over an effort to look for ways to overcome obstacles in developing new therapeutics, vaccines, and microbacides to combat HIV and AIDS. And we have achieved a great deal since last year. Working with this team here today, we convene meetings that led to the establishment of the Forum for Collaborative HIV Research. And I'm proud that the participants in this forum -- AIDS clinicians, researchers, drug companies, insurance companies, and patient advocacy groups -- have all expressed their belief that this has become an unprecedented and productive forum for discussing the future of HIV research.

These new scientific advancements in HIV and AIDS treatment -- optimism and hope in the AIDS community for people with AIDS and their families. So this is a very positive report this year. And many our now feeling that there is cause for more optimism in the near future.

Through collaborative efforts like this new forum, and the cooperative efforts of the government and private sector researchers, we'll continue the fight for better and more affordable prevention strategies, vaccines, and microbacides. We will not forget the children. The President is personally committed to focusing this research effort on the crying need to develop pediatric applications of these prevention and treatment strategies and products. And we've all talked a great deal about how to do that.

Working with our team assembled here and with our partners in research, we will continue to knock down every barrier to the development of successful therapeutics, vaccines, and microbacides until we knock down the last barrier of all -- the HIV virus itself.

Now, on behalf of the President, I want to turn this over to Secretary Donna Shalala to expand on the administration's efforts to defeat this terrible disease.

SECRETARY SHALALA: Thank you very much, Mr. Vice President.

Mr. President, before I start I'd like to present you with this card. It's actually a thank-you card from the leaders of public health in the United States. It was presented to me yesterday, and it says: Dear Mr. President, essentially, thank you, thank you, thank you for everything that you have been able to do. And they all signed it. It's in honor of World AIDS Day, which, of course, was yesterday.

Thank you. Let me begin by first thanking Patsy Fleming. I know she's announced that she is not going to continue with us for the second term, and she has done a tremendous job for you and for the American people.

THE PRESIDENT: She sure has.

SECRETARY SHALALA: She has actually been our coach. I think all of us would say that Patsy has coached us. She has spent her career on the AIDS issue, and she spent a lot of time coaching us to make sure that we had a very focused strategy for this administration.

The Vice President has outlined some of the successes in the increase in funds for AIDS. I'd actually like to start with a chart back there, but I'm not sure I'm going to get to it.

Q Mr, President, can you tell us how you feel about James Carville's effort to mount an offensive on your behalf?

THE PRESIDENT: I can't comment.

Q You're not going to talk to him about it?

Q How's the Cabinet going?

Q Any decisions, sir?

Q When can we expect an announcement? Are you glad you've lost your voice? (Laughter.)

THE PRESIDENT: It's a hoax. (Laughter.)

Q We suspected as much, sir. (Laughter.)

END 11:52 A.M. EST