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Office of the Press Secretary

For Immediate Release December 1, 1998




On World AIDS Day, we are heartened by the knowledge that our unprecedented investments in AIDS research have resulted in new treatments that are prolonging the lives of many people living with the disease. Thousands of scientists, health care professionals, and patients themselves have joined together to advance our understanding of HIV and AIDS and improve treatment options. Because of the heroic efforts of these people, fewer and fewer Americans are losing their lives to AIDS, and for that we are immensely thankful.

But the AIDS epidemic is far from over. Within racial and ethnic minority communities, HIV and AIDS are a severe and ongoing crisis. While the number of deaths in our country attributed to AIDS has declined for 2 consecutive years, AIDS remains the leading killer of African American men aged 25-44 and the second leading killer of African American women in the same age group. African Americans, who comprise only 13 percent of the U.S. population, accounted for 43 percent of new AIDS cases in 1997 and 36 percent of all AIDS cases. Hispanic Americans represent just 10 percent of our population, but they account for more than 20 percent of new AIDS cases; and AIDS is also becoming a critical concern to Native American and Asian American communities. Young people of every racial and ethnic community are also disproportionately impacted by AIDS, both in the number of new AIDS cases and in the number of new HIV infections. In fact, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimate that approximately half of all new HIV infections in the United States occur in people under age 25 and that one-quarter occur in people under age 22.

Across the world, the situation is even more grim. As with other epidemics before it, AIDS hits hardest in areas where knowledge about the disease is scarce and poverty is high. Of the nearly 6 million people newly infected with HIV each year, more than 90 percent live in the poorest nations of the world. Entire communities are threatened by this epidemic, and the growing number of children who will lose parents to AIDS will have a devastating impact on these societies. By the year 2010, there may be as many as 40 million children who will have been orphaned by AIDS, and developing nations will have to struggle to deal with the overwhelming needs of a generation of young people left without parents.

This year's World AIDS Day theme, "Be A Force For Change," is a reminder that each of us has a role to play in bringing the AIDS epidemic to an end. Our response must be comprehensive and ongoing. It must also be a collaborative one, bringing together governments and communities in a shared effort to expand prevention efforts, raise awareness among young people of the risks of HIV infection and how to avoid it, increase access to lifesaving therapies, and ensure that those who are living with HIV and AIDS receive the care and services they need.

Developing a vaccine for HIV is perhaps our best hope of eradicating this terrible disease and stemming the tide of pain and desolation it has wrought. The global community has joined together in making the development of an HIV vaccine a top international priority. Within the next decade, we hope to have the means to stop this deadly virus, but until we reach that day we must remain strong in our crusade to prevent the spread of HIV and AIDS and to care for those living with the disease. In this way we can best honor the memory of the many loved ones we have lost to 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, 1998, 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. 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 and educate our children and to help and comfort all people who are living with HIV and 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-eight, and of the Independence of the United States of America the two hundred and twenty-third.