World AIDS Day Ceremony


Thank you. I am pleased to see so many of you here. I especially want to thank Amy Weintraub for joining us. She is the Director of Covenant House in Charleston, West Virginia, where we just announced a HOPWA grant last week. Bernard Savage is also with us. I look forward to Bernard sharing his story with you.

Today we join with people who are meeting worldwide. For the past few days they have been gathering in places like Los Angeles, London, Tokyo, Hong Kong, Sydney, Buenos Ares, San Paulo, Cape Town, Dakar, and many other cities throughout the world. We have witnessed some very moving assemblies right here in Washington. People gather in unity, in solidarity, as brothers and sisters, to commemorate the ongoing struggle against HIV/AIDS.

This is a day for reflection and for renewed dedication. We pause and think about the journey taken and the journey to come. World AIDS Day was first proclaimed by the United Nations in 1988. This is the 19th year that we have marked this day. It gives us a chance to reflect on the challenge of HIV/AIDS, with more than one million Americans confronting HIV/AIDS, and more than 33 million worldwide. We think of those who have died, including several of our colleagues here at HUD. We also think about how best to combat this disease, and how each one of us can step forward to become part of the solution, the national and global effort to address HIV/AIDS. And we think about the future. Where will our efforts take us? What difference will our actions make for people challenged by HIV/AIDS?

The fight against the spread of HIV/AIDS is personal for us. Nationally, about 14 people per every 100,000 have HIV/AIDS. You and I probably know someone with HIV/AIDS...we probably know some taken from us by the disease. AIDS has somehow touched almost every family, every organization, in every part of our country, from far-away Alaska to our neighbors in West Virginia.

As we learned last week from the latest health report from the City, the District of Columbia is severely challenged by the disease. The report showed that there are 128 cases of HIV/AIDS per 100,000 in the District of Columbia....higher than New York, Baltimore, or Philadelphia....800 times higher than the national rate. As the Washington Post said, "AIDS is devastating the District." It is an epidemic in the District and throughout the nation. This epidemic demands our full attention and our best response.

But there has been some important and good news. In many countries, we are making progress. In some countries the rate of increase is slowing, even reversing. Treatment efforts are becoming more successful and more available. People are living with AIDS; it is not a death sentence.

And we have witnessed some courageous acts of sacrifice and service. In Haiti, there is a much-discussed program directed by Dr. Paul Farmer from Harvard. He has organized an army of caregivers who walk throughout rural Haiti to make daily house calls on those who confront the disease. There are powerful and successful prevention efforts in countries that have been ravaged by the disease, countries like Uganda and Thailand.

And in this country, we have witnessed an outpouring of concern, compassion, and philanthropy.

Yes, there is more to do...much more. But we have come a long way, so far.

So, the theme of this year's World AIDS Day is "leadership." Yes, that is appropriate. We are called upon to be leaders. I know the employees of this department will be leaders.

You can be a leader in your actions in many ways, motivated by compassion, tolerance, love, and regard.

We can be leaders at home, educating our children, and maintaining healthy activities.

We can be leaders in our neighborhoods, supporting HIV/AIDS awareness drives and supporting neighbors who have been diagnosed with the disease.

You can be a leader in your church, synagogue or mosque, helping to bring spiritual solace and needed services to those confronting HIV/AIDS.

You can help in the worksite by helping to make housing safe and healthy, and through our departmental efforts, like the HOPWA grants and other efforts. I am proud that we have awarded more than $280 million this year in HOPWA grants, and that since 1993, the department has awarded about $3.5 billion in HOPWA grants. This funding makes a big difference to places like Covenant House.

You can be a leader by donating to programs that combat the spread of AIDS. You could do this through CFC or by donating directly.

You can be a leader by donating to the many non-profit public health programs that fight AIDS worldwide.

You can volunteer to work with HIV/AIDS patients in hospitals or hospices, to help provide care wherever it is needed.

And you can give a smile, a welcoming hand, a warm embrace, to someone who needs your friendship and support.

Because HIV/AIDS can bring out the best in us. The challenge of the disease can open our hearts, broaden our minds, and enlarge our souls.

And we can work with wonderful people like Amy (Weintraub) and Bernard (Savage).

So, again, I want to thank all of you for coming. And I want to welcome our guests to the Department of Housing and Urban Development.


Content Archived: December 27, 2011