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Office of the Press Secretary

For Immediate Release December 1, 1997




For more than 15 years, America and the world have faced the challenges posed by HIV and AIDS. This devastating disease respects no borders and does not discriminate. In every city, town, and community, we have lost sons and daughters, brothers and sisters, mothers and fathers, life partners and friends. HIV and AIDS have affected us all, regardless of income, region, gender, race, religion, sexual orientation, or age. Sadly, both the number of people living with AIDS and the number of new HIV infections is rising worldwide. This year, as we observe the tenth World AIDS Day, we recognize with particular concern the toll HIV and AIDS continue to take on our children and youth.

The statistics are heartbreaking. In America alone, more than 7,500 children under the age of 13 have been diagnosed with AIDS. Every hour of every day, two more Americans under the age of 21 become infected with HIV. Around the world, more than 1 million children are living with HIV and AIDS. Twelve hundred children die of AIDS each day, even as 1,600 more become infected with the HIV virus. Compounding this tragedy is the terrible reality that many of the world's young people who are living with HIV and AIDS do not have access to the life-extending drugs and medical protocols that our scientists and doctors have developed. There is also a critical shortage of prescription drugs suitable for children suffering from pediatric HIV and AIDS. Of the 14 approved drugs for adults and adolescents, only five are approved for children.

From the earliest days of my Administration, we have sought to meet the challenges posed by AIDS with increased resources and action. I am proud of our success, with the cooperation of the Congress, in dramatically increasing funding for AIDS prevention measures and research. Such programs and research have helped to slow the spread of HIV and AIDS and have made possible the production of new drugs that are extending the lives of people with HIV and AIDS here at home and around the world.

But our progress against the scourge of AIDS has not been the result of government action alone. We have been able to make these great strides in understanding and treating HIV and AIDS thanks in large part to the hard work and commitment of thousands of researchers, health care providers, and clinical trial participants. I am proud as well of the resounding response of courage, compassion, responsibility, and love that the AIDS crisis has brought forth from our people. The lesbian and gay community, particularly in the early years of this epidemic, energized existing organizations and created new institutions to respond to the unmet needs of those living with HIV and AIDS. Educators and activists, members of religious and civic groups, business and labor organizations, and tens of thousands of other men and women of goodwill have joined together to comfort the afflicted and bring an end to this disease.

We can rejoice in our progress, but we cannot rest. In May, I announced a new HIV vaccine initiative, and I am pleased that the global community has joined together in making the development of this vaccine a top international priority. Within 10 years, we hope to have the means to stop this deadly virus. But until we reach that day, I call on every American to remain with us on our crusade to eradicate this terrible epidemic and care for those living with AIDS along the way. As we mark World AIDS Day this year, we must continue to provide care for the sick and ensure that all have access to the treatment they need. And one of our most important tasks now is to strengthen our efforts to educate young people about HIV and AIDS and to make available to them and others at high risk effective prevention programs. By giving our children real hope for a future free from the shadows of HIV and AIDS, we can best commemorate the many loved ones we have already lost to the disease during its long and tragic course. May their enduring memory light our journey toward a vaccine for HIV and a final cure for AIDS.

NOW, THEREFORE, I, WILLIAM J. CLINTON, President of the United States of America, by virtue of the authority vested in me by the Constitution and laws of the United States, do hereby proclaim December 1, 1997, as World AIDS Day. I invite the Governors of the States, the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico, officials of the other territories subject to the jurisdiction of the United States, and the American people to join me in reaffirming our commitment to defeating HIV and AIDS and to helping those who live with the disease. I encourage every American to participate in appropriate commemorative programs and ceremonies in workplaces, houses of worship, and other community centers and to reach out to protect our children and to help all people who are living with AIDS.

IN WITNESS WHEREOF, I have hereunto set my hand this first day of December, in the year of our Lord nineteen hundred and ninety-seven, and of the Independence of the United States of America the two hundred and twenty-second.


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