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The world lost two icons today, both women of immense stature and resilience. Baronnes MARGARET THATCHER succombed to a long period of illness, after suffering a stroke, it was announced this morning. She served as Britain's Prime Minister from 1979 until 1990, when she was forced out of office by her own conservative party, who came to dislike her stern policies.

She was the daughter of a working class family, but rose through the ranks of politics, serving as a member of parliament for more than 10 years, and then as Education Secretary before her surprise win in 1979. A year later RONALD REAGAN was elected President of the United States, and the two dominated the world stage with their "white, hard nosed conservatism."

The "Iron Lady", as Thatcher came to be known, was instrumental with her cooperation, and sometimes suggestion to the United States, on the fall of the Soviet Empire, and thus the Cold War. It was THATCHER who is credited with prodding REAGAN to "work with" MIKHAIL GORBACHEV, which eventually resulted in a thawing of the bitter relations with the West, and the tearing down of the wall in Berlin, among other notable milestones, all leading to the deterioration of the Eastern threat.

Like REAGAN, THATCHER took pride in busting up the unions, invading other countries when England's interests were at stake, and generally espousing a self-reliant theory of personhood, in lieu of government assistance, which today remains a cornerstone of conservatism. While she is seen as one of Britian's top Prime Ministers of all time, her 11 years of rule were described by many, even today, in the commentary on her death, as divisive. An example of some of her extreme views is that she thought of NELSON MANDELA as a terrorist.


In another realm, ANNETTE FUNICELLO, one of the original Disney Mousketeers, passed away after a decades-long struggle with multiple sclerosis. FUNCELLO was discovered by WALT DISNEY himself, who saw her perform the lead in Swan Lake in the city of Burbank back in 1955. She was asked to audition for the new show conceived by WALT, and was signed on the spot. The show ran 3 years, but had re-runs into the '90's.


She remained under contract to Disney, and starred in such feature films as The Shaggy Dog, Babes in Toyland, The Misadventure of Merlin Jones, and The Monkey's Uncle.

FUNICELLO co-starred with FRNAKIE AVALON in a series of beach movies, where her beauty, comic skill, and singing took center stage, in films like Beach Party, Muscle Beach, Bikini Beach, Beach Blanket Bingo, and How to Stuff a Wild Bikini. The films remain cult classics today.

But it was in the 1980's when FUNICELLO'S strengths were put to the test. She was diagnosed with MS in 1987, and went public with it in 1992, establishing The Annette Funicello Research Fund. She continued to make public appearances, at charity events, and to be honored for her lifetime's work, mostly in support of research for the disease. On some of her last appearances in the late '90's, she was severely impaired, and confined to a wheelchair, but struggled on, putting a brave face on a ruthless disease



3.28.13 - SEE CHANGE

See ANTONIN mock. See SCALIA squirm. Sea change happened, and the conservative justice really doesn't care for it.

For the second day on the bench at the Supreme Court Justice ANTONIN SCALIA mocked the attorney for plaintiffs, this time ROBERTA KAPLAN, lawyer for EDITH WINDSOR, who was hit with a $360,000 estate tax bill after the death of her long-time partner, and wedded spouse. A straight couple would not be subject to the same tax bill due to exemptions allotted to surviving spouses. In an exchange, the justice asked KAPLAN about the current landscape in the country in support of same-sex marriage, after she explained to the court her theory that the country's views on homosexuals had changed.

"Why are you so confident in that judgment? How many states permit gay couples to marry?", SCALIA interrupted.

"Today? Nine, your honor," KAPLAN replied.

"Nine, and so there has been this sea change between now and 1996?", SCALIA asked, clearly sarcastically.

KAPLAN stood firm, "I think with respect to the understanding of gay people and their relationships there has been a sea change, Your Honor."

And indeed, she is correct. Change has been coming at lightning speed, and given SCALIA'S questions the preceding day about when it became unconstitutional to disallow gay marriage, it would seem that the sea has done swept up the SCALIA'S boat, and washed him ashore. The bully clearly is not pleased with this new current, and is swimming against it to no apparent avail.

Nor is he pleased with President OBAMA who hath moved the oceans to effect this change. Both he, and the Chief Justice took the opportunity to swipe at the President for enforcing the law but not defending it.

"I don't see why he doesn't have the courage of his convictions," ROBERTS said in a direct affront to President OBAMA.

To the contrary, it is the President's courage, and his convictions, that have gotten under the skin of conservatives on the Supreme Court, and have brought us to this moment, when it would appear DOMA sinks to the bottom of the ocean, and the equality of gays and lesbians floats a little closer to paradise island.

See the sea change, right before our eyes.


President Obama


What a supreme joy, to finally see our lives and our rights adjudicated before the country. What a surprise, that for once, the momentum is finally on our side. In every household, on every newspaper, the lead of every news show-same sex marraige, and discrimination of gays and lesbians has finally arrived as a topic to be decided. Well, let's say, discussed.

The Supreme Court signalled it may not put an end to the litigation with its decision. They could sidestep the issues in both cases heard this week with technical mumbo jumbo on standing. It seems that both cases come to the court circuitously. In the Prop 8 case, the State of California concluded the law bourne of the proposition was unconstitutional, and so once the California Supreme Court struck it down, the state decided not to fight it. They agreed. So a group of citizens brought the appeal which landed in the Supreme Court, the same citizens that fought so hard to get the proposition passed in the first place.

Likewise, in the DOMA case, the government of the United States, led by President BARACK OBAMA and his Attorney General, decided that DOMA was unconstitutional, and sought not to appeal the decisions fo the Appeals Court. But the congress, led by Speaker JOHN BOEHNER did.

Which leaves the Supreme Court the option of declaring that neither case has the legal standing to be heard at all.
If that were to happen come June, when the high court issues it's rulings, it would be a travesty of justice, to be sure. Never mind the headaches it would leave the republican party with, trying to grapple with an electorate that has move fully past them as they try to reconcile their hypocritical bigotry and their minority status on the trash heap of relevance. But, no, it would be a shame if the court were to dodge this moment.

After all, why in the world did the Supremes agree to hear the cases in the first place, if not to make a grand sweeping gesture of justice and equality? Is the pressure too great to make a ruling, now that the tide of public opinion is turning in favor of GLBT rights? Or is the court worried about putting it's neck out on what could be a landmark decision sure to disappoint their conservative friends? Things are moving so fast.

Justice SAMUEL ALITO sounded small and timid, "Same-sex marriage is very new...But you want us to step in and render a decision based on an assessment of the effects of this institution, which is newer than cellphones or the Internet? I mean, we do not have the ability to see the future." If it's too hot, perhaps ALITO need get out of the kitchen.

Justice SCALIA showed the same trepidation, in his mocking sarcastic way. "I'm curious, when, when did, when did it become unconstitutional to exclude homosexual couples from marriage? 1791? 1868, when the Fourteenth Amendment was adopted?"

The correct answer, of course, is that it was always unconstitutional, just like it was always unconstitutional to own slaves, or make blacks sit in the back of the bus, or drink from different water fountains, or intern Japanese Americans, or any number of matters, all of which SCALIA knows too well.

Chief Justice ROBERTS left his intellect at the door as well. "Same-sex couples have every other right, it's just about the label?" He asked, again mockingly. "If you tell a child that somebody has to be their friend, I suppose you can force the child to say 'This is my friend,' but it changes the definition of what it means to be a friend. And that's it seems to me what the, what supporters of Proposition 8 are saying here. You're-all you're interested in is the label and you insist on chnaging the definition of the label."

Really Mr. Chief Justice? You're kidding, right? It's like saying, you are the chief justice of the last line of defense for minorities, and the poor, and the less connected in our political system, but you're really nothing more than an elitist bigot, but you want to be called Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, even though you have made a mockery of the title. Is that what you mean? You just want the label?

The issue is so blatantly obvious. Different can never be equal. You cannot live in a country with it's motto, "with liberty, and justice, for all", and then not include the "all." All men are created equal, except some? The pursuit of happiness is accorded to only a chosen few? It's just nonsense, and they all know it. The millennials know it. Republicans and democrats alike know it. Anyone with a gay child, or uncle, or friend knows it. It must end.
It's been too long, longer than cellphones and the internet, Sam, a lot longer. Does anyone remember HARVEY MILK? Hell, he wasn't a newcomer to this issue, just one of the many heroes along the way. And it has been a long way.

But it would appear the Supremes will drag this one out even further. No sweeping ruling to rectify an ongoing injustice should be expected this June. Not from these numbnuts. Look for a limited ruling. One that will no doubt make marriage legal in California, and maybe a few other states.

The clear inclination is to let this play out. Even swing vote Justice KENNEDY seemed afraid to take a stand. He at once recognized the injured parties in these matters, at least some of them-the children of gay and lesbian parents. "They want their parents to have full recognition and full status. The voice of those children is important in this case, don't you think?"

Uh, der. And the voice of every American citizen, for that matter, every human being who is treated like a second-class citizen, their voices are not that hard to hear Anthony, are they? It's not just the children, it's everytone who is discriminated against unfairly, but maybe he will see that after a few months of rumination on the issue. Maybe.

Go ahead, let the injustice and discrimination live on as long as possible. The states need to hash this out-because that's what liberty, and justice, and freedom are all about-a piecemeal determination until some logical consensus is reached, with which we are all comfortable. Or maybe justice is something a majority can determine. Maybe this should be decided at the voter's box and in the statehouse. I mean, a majority of voters, or a majority of republican lawmakers can make the right decisions on these matters, can't they?

Maybe in a few years, when hispanics are the majority in some jurisdictions, they rally an initiative for their vattos and vote that all grumpy old white men, who ever served on the Supreme Court, no longer have the right to speak. They can sit around, and snarl, and pop their Tums, but no more talking. Period.

I suppose I could live with that. So long as they make it clear, for Justice SCALIA, just what the date is when he no longer has the right to speak. Spell out that date for him. And we'll all be just fine.


President Obama


Tuesday the Supreme Court hears arguments in the Prop 8 case, which has finally come to the front of the pack, and Wednesday the court hears arguments in the case challenging DOMA. Protesters and would be audience members for the momentous hearings have been lined up in the snow and freezing temperatures since last Thursday. Decisions are expected in June.

What a pride season 2013 could be.

Meanwhile, the momentum for a sea change on gay rights issues is building at breakneck pace. JEAN PADRASKY, Chief Justice JOHN ROBERTS cousin, and an open lesbian waiting to marry her partner of 4 years, will be ROBERT'S guest at the hearings. In an interview with the Los Angeles Times, PADRASKY said she sees the Chief Justice on occasion for family get togethers, and he knows that she is gay, though he hasn't met her partner. The Chief Justice's mother is PADRASKY'S godmother.

Columnists have been pushing the boundary on this issue for weeks, and it came to a head over the weekend. FRANK BRUNI, in his New York Times column, announced, "The question isn't whether there will be a happy ending. The question is when...Fairness is where we are heading, at least in regard to marriage, which has emerged as the terrain on which Americans are hashing out their feelings about gays and lesbians. The trend line is clear. And the choice before the justices is whether to be handmaidens to history, or whether to sit it out."

Buzzfeed's CHRIS GEIDNER, who covered CPAC this year, wrote a column with the headline, "At CPAC, The Marriage Fight is Over.", going on to detail how speakers opposing gay marriage spoke to empty rooms, while supporters had standing room only crowds. The republicans are figuring out how to get in front of the tide on this issue, and the tide is a tsunami. A sweeping decision that wipes away the discimination nationwide, the best possible result for the GLBT community, could be just the thing the republican party needs to do a 360 on this issue and not look like buffoons. Most are not expecting a hands down win for gay marriage and against DOMA, however.

It is more likely there will be a hybrid decision, with some number of states having to recognize same-sex marriage, and some partial strike-down of DOMA. But things are changing so fast, it really is anyone's guess.

In another op-ed over the weekend, this one from SCOTT FUJITA, an 11-year veteran of the National Football League, that ran in the New York Times sports section, same-sex marriage, and gay rights in general, was given a thoughtful, intelligent airing, from the perspective of a professional athlete, and adoptee, with the result nothing short of stunning.

"Years ago my wife and I became friendly with a young woman whose teenage brother coimmitted suicide after coming out to an unsuspecting and unsupportive father. This woman explained that her father was a football guy, a 'man's man'-whatever that means. She challenged me to speak up for her lost brother becasue, as she said, the only way to change the heart and mind of someone like her father was for him to hear that people he admires would embrace someone like his son.

I hope that soon after Tuesday's arguments in Front of the Supreme Court, people like me won't have to speak up for those sons or daughters. No one owns the definition of love. It comes in all shapes and sizes...One thing I know for certain is that you can't put a face on love, and you can't tell me what a family is supposed to look like."

My jaw was agape reading it. FUJITA is not the first NFL player this year to speak up on behalf of GLBT rights. It is truly amazing.

But why shouldn't it be? I mean, if you can fight a war alongside a gay or lesbian soldier, if the military can impose and enforce discipline and effectiveness for performance on the battlefield, then why not everywhere else in our society. Come on. It's a no-brainer at this point. President OBAMA saw to that.

Which makes it all the more interesting that a fervent and vocal group of French citizens are protesting the prospect of legalized same-sex marriage in that European country. I thought that continent was so much farther advanced that us puritans in the United States. I thought they didn't get worked up about sexuality like we did.

Just goes to show you how dramatic this change we are experiencing is. And it makes the decisions coming in the next few months on these cases all the more drama filled. Whoever coined the phrase "No drama Obama" had no idea what they were talking about. This President, and the shifting sands which he as unleashed, is all about the drama, the drama of change.

Stay tuned.


President Obama


It's a new year, and the barriers just keep falling. The Washington National Cathedral announced yesterday that is ready and waiting to perform same-sex marriage ceremonies, in the nation's stately cathedral. Talk about surreal!

The gothic church is presided over by the Very Reverend GAYR HALL, who said in interviews yesterday, "We have a lot of gay and lesbian Christians. What the National Cathedral is saying by doing this is we want to give faithful lesbian, bisexual, gay and transgender people the same tools for living their lives faithfully that straight people have always had, and marriage is one of those tools. This comes out of even more of a theological understanding, for me, than it does out of a political agenda."

The chamges are coming so fast you have to pinch youself to be sure it isn't a dream.

On another front, the Unites States Marine Corp yesterday took a stance that is somewhat mind-boggling. They advised their legal staff to insure that spousal clubs operating on bases must admit same-sex spouses to avail themselves of the benefits of such clubs, or face discimination claims, and the Marines just don't want that bad press. Really?

The issue arose after a dispute at Fort Bragg in, of all places, North Carolina, where the same-sex spouse of a marine tried to enter an officer's cl;ub but was refused admittance. The memo read that "a spouses club's decision to exclude a same-sex spouse as sexual discrimination because the exclusion was based upon the spouse's sex."

Wow! Do I see a house-husbands reality show in this one.

In France, a country heavily influenced by the Roman Catholic Church, same-sex marriage is being debated, much the same way the debate got started here in the United States. Religious leaders denounce the tinkering of the sacred union between a man and a woman. Pragmatic leaders, including conservatives like former President VALERY GISCARD d'ESTAING tout the need for equal rights, but preserving the term "marriage" for straight couples. It won't be long. It is the right side of history to fall into line with the dozen other coutries, and the 9 states in America that have succombed to the logic, and the fairness of allowing same-sex MARRIAGES.

Meanwhile, President OBAMA has chosen the first openly gay man, a Cuban American poet by the name of RICHARD BLANCO, to read at the upcoming inaugaration.

"Richard's writing will be wonderfully fitting for an inaugaral that will celebrate the strength of the American people and our nation's great diversity," the President said in a statement.

Elections do have consequences. But, lest we get punchdrunk on all this glorious change, reality does bite back on occasion. The pastor chosen by President OBAMA to deliver the benediction at the inagaural, Reverand LOUIE GIGLIO, railed against the gay agenda in sermons he espoused in the '90's.

He descibed homosexuality as "sin in the eyes of God, and it is a sin in the world of God." He once spoke of the gay rights movement in fanatical terms. "That movement is not a benevolent movement. It is a movement to seize by any means necessary the feeling and the mood of the day, to the point where the homosexual lifestyle becomes accepted as a norm in our society."

Actually, I think LOUIE had it just about right, and thanks to the courageous efforts of our President, and a host of others, we are well on our way.


12.18.12 - Senator DANIEL INOUYE made a surprise appearance at the Veteran's Caucus at the DNC in Charlotte in August, and took the microphone to speak, despite not being on the agenda. He was a staunch supporter not only of veterans, having been a World War II hero, but also a bulworth for GLBT causes. He was one of only 14 senators to vote against DOMA in 1996; he was an instant supporter of marriage equality once the President announced his support; he co-sponsored ENDA-the Employment Non-Discrimation Act; supported the repeal of Don't Ask Don't Tell; and, he co-sponsored the United American Families Act, which would have provided immigration equality for same-sex partners. Hawaii's first elected representative will surely be missed.

World Aids Day

11.30.12 - Moving Towards an AIDS-free Generation

What a year it has been! One year ago on World AIDS Day, President Obama announced ambitious new targets in the global fight against HIV/AIDS, and on the domestic front focused investment to support the first comprehensive National HIV/AIDS Strategy to fight the epidemic here at home. In the President’s speech that day he said: “we are going to win this fight. But the fight is not over…” As we celebrate World AIDS Day 2012, it is worth taking a moment to look back at what’s been achieved and what remains to be done to meet the goal of an AIDS-free generation.
We’re pleased to announce that the President’s commitments have translated into meaningful action over the last year and that we’re making measurable, real progress. We’ll talk about that progress in detail this week, when the White House will host an event for World AIDS Day on November 29 from 1pm-3pm, which you can watch at We’ll discuss the results we have achieved over the last year – including towards meeting the targets set by the President one year ago, and the next steps we will be taking to turn the tide on this epidemic. Please join us!
This summer, we were reminded that HIV impacts all of us, no matter who we are or where we live. The International AIDS Conference returned to the United States for the first time in 22 years, thanks to President Obama concluding a successful bipartisan effort to end the entry ban on persons living with HIV. The Conference was an unqualified success, with new and exciting treatment and prevention research announced and representation of persons living with HIV from all regions of the world. President Obama welcomed delegates to the conference and hosted HIV-positive conference delegates and others for a White House reception. Six senior White House staff recorded powerful and personal videos on how the HIV/AIDS epidemic has impacted their lives.
The complete AIDS Memorial Quilt was also back in Washington D.C. for the first time in 16 years, and we were privileged to host panels of the Quilt in the White House.
This year the U.S. also led with our partners a successful series of reforms at the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, TB and Malaria to make the Fund more nimble and increase its impact, and we are pleased to offer our warmest congratulations to Ambassador Mark Dybul, who was named the new Executive Director of the Fund this month and who led PEPFAR from 2006-2009. We’re delighted that he’ll be at the helm of this critical multilateral partner as we seek an AIDS-free generation, and thank him for demonstrating through his work and commitment that the fight against HIV/AIDS is a bipartisan fight.
Domestically, we are making incredible strides. Ongoing implementation of the Affordable Care Act means tens of thousands of persons living with HIV will gain health coverage and access to life-extending treatment. Starting in 2014, people will not be able to be denied insurance for pre-existing conditions, including HIV. Already the Act has increased access to HIV testing and other prevention services for millions of Americans, many persons living with HIV have insurance through state-established pre-existing condition plans and AIDS drug assistance program (ADAP) contributions help people move through the Medicare part D “donut hole” more quickly. Thanks to ongoing Federal investments, the number of Americans living with HIV on the ADAP waiting lists has dropped over 95% in a little over a year. With Federal efforts increasingly focused on linking and retaining people in care and treatment, new grants have been awarded to expand this work, particularly among black and Latino communities, where HIV disparities are the greatest.
World AIDS Day is a time when we remember the friends and loved ones lost to this terrible disease. More needs to be accomplished in the domestic and global fight against HIV. But by following the science, making smarter investments, and supporting a sustained, collective response, we are making tangible progress. This week, let’s celebrate that progress, and to recommit to moving forward together.

Gayle Smith is Special Assistant to the President and Senior Director for Development and Democracy for the National Security Staff and Grant Colfax is the Director of the Office of National AIDS Policy



On World AIDS Day, more than 30 years after the first cases of this tragic illness were reported, we join the global community once more in standing with the millions of people who live with HIV/AIDS worldwide. We also recommit to preventing the spread of this disease, fighting the stigma associated with infection, and ending this pandemic once and for all.
In 2010, my Administration released the National HIV/AIDS Strategy, our Nation's first comprehensive plan to fight the domestic epidemic. The Strategy aims to reduce new infections, increase access to care, reduce health disparities, and achieve a more coordinated national response to HIV/AIDS here in the United States. To meet these goals, we are advancing HIV/AIDS education; connecting stakeholders throughout the public, private, and non-profit sectors; and investing in promising research that can improve clinical outcomes and reduce the risk of transmission. Moving forward, we must continue to focus on populations with the highest HIV disparities -- including gay men, and African American and Latino communities -- and scale up effective, evidence-based interventions to prevent and treat HIV. We are also implementing the Affordable Care Act, which has expanded access to HIV testing and will ensure that all Americans, including those living with HIV/AIDS, have access to health insurance beginning in 2014.
These actions are bringing us closer to an AIDS-free generation at home and abroad -- a goal that, while ambitious, is within sight. Through the President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR), we are on track to meet the HIV prevention and treatment targets I set last year. We are working with partners at home and abroad to reduce new infections in adults, help people with HIV/AIDS live longer, prevent mother-to-child transmission, and support the global effort to eliminate new infections in children by 2015. And thanks to bipartisan action to lift the entry ban on persons living with HIV, we were proud to welcome leaders from around the world to the 19th International AIDS Conference in Washington, D.C.
Creating an AIDS-free generation is a shared responsibility. It requires commitment from partner countries, coupled with support from donors, civil society, people living with HIV, faith-based organizations, the private sector, foundations, and multilateral institutions. We stand at a tipping point in the fight against HIV/AIDS, and working together, we can realize our historic opportunity to bring that fight to an end.
Today, we reflect on the strides we have taken toward overcoming HIV/AIDS, honor those who have made our progress possible, and keep in our thoughts all those who have known the devastating consequences of this illness. The road toward an AIDS-free generation is long -- but as we mark this important observance, let us also remember that if we move forward every day with the same passion, persistence, and drive that has brought us this far, we can reach our goal. We can beat this disease. On World AIDS Day, in memory of those no longer with us and in solidarity with all who carry on the fight, let us pledge to make that vision a reality.
NOW, THEREFORE, I, BARACK OBAMA, President of the United States of America, by virtue of the authority vested in me by the Constitution and the laws of the United States do hereby proclaim December 1, 2012, as World AIDS Day. I urge the Governors of the States and 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 appropriate activities to remember those who have lost their lives to AIDS and to provide support and comfort to those living with this disease.
IN WITNESS WHEREOF, I have hereunto set my hand this
twenty-ninth day of November, in the year of our Lord two thousand twelve, and of the Independence of the United States of America the two hundred and thirty-seventh.


Statement by the President on the Observance of World AIDS Day

This Saturday, December 1st, on World AIDS Day, we will come together as a global community to stand with people affected by HIV/AIDS, to remember those we have lost, and to renew our commitment to ending the pandemic once and for all. We have made great strides in combating this disease, and an AIDS-free generation is within sight. Here in the United States we are implementing a National HIV/AIDS Strategy and concentrating our efforts in communities where HIV rates are highest, including among gay men, Latinos, and African Americans. We are investing in comprehensive HIV prevention and care, including through the Affordable Care Act, to prevent infection and ensure that all people living with HIV have access to life-extending treatment. Testing for HIV remains a top priority, and thanks to ongoing scientific advancements, finding out your HIV status has never been easier and treatment is more effective than ever.

Today, I am pleased my Administration will make public new data that demonstrates we are on track to meet the ambitious treatment and prevention targets I announced on World AIDS Day a year ago. As of today, we are treating over 5 million people with lifesaving medicines for AIDS, up from 1.7 million in 2008, and, as I pledged last year, we are on track to treat 6 million people by the end of 2013. This year, we have also reached over 700,000 HIV-positive pregnant women with antiretroviral drugs that will prevent them from passing the virus to their children. As we meet these new targets, we are joined by a growing number of countries and the Global Fund for AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, who share our commitment to doing more so that more may live. As we continue this important work with our partners around the world and here at home, let us remember the lives we have lost to AIDS, celebrate the progress we have made, and, together, recommit to ourselves to achieving our shared vision of an AIDS-free generation.

Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton In Recognition of World AIDS Day

November 29, 2012
Benjamin Franklin Room
Washington, D.C.

SECRETARY CLINTON: Thank you all very much. Oh my goodness. Thank you. I think we could just end the program right now. (Laughter.) Florence, thank you. Thank you for continuing to be a smiling advocate on behalf of an AIDS-free generation. And congratulations on those two sons of yours, who are the strongest evidence of what we can achieve. I’m very grateful to you for sharing your energy, your story, and your passion with us today.

I am so pleased to have this opportunity to unveil, formally, the blueprint for an AIDS-free generation. And this could not have happened without Dr. Eric Goosby. I’ve known Eric a long time. When I decided to accept the President’s offer to become Secretary of State, I knew there was only one person that I would hope to recruit to become our Global AIDS Ambassador. Because Eric has both the firsthand experience, going back to the very beginning of his medical training and practice in San Francisco, to the vision he has as to continue to push us to do even more than we think we possibly can, and the drive to actually deliver that. He’s a unique human being, and we are so grateful for his service. And I want to return the favor, my friend, and thank you publicly for everything you have done. (Applause.)

Also sitting in the front row is the man who has been leading the government’s research efforts from the very early days of the epidemic, Dr. Tony Fauci. Thank you for being here and thank you for everything you have done. (Applause.)

From USAID, we have Dr. Ariel Pablos-Mendez, who has also been, along with everyone at USAID and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and other government agencies, one of those public servants who has dedicated his or her life to this work.

So I am grateful to everyone in our government who has done what has made all the difference. We could not be making this announcement had it not been for the countless hours in laboratories, at bedsides, in the field, everything that people have contributed.

And also let me thank Michel Sidibe, who has also been on the frontlines, and from UNAIDS, an absolutely essentially organization in playing the irreplaceable role in this fight. Thank you so much, Michel. (Applause.)

And Dr. Dlamini-Zuma, the first woman to chair the African Union Commission, a longtime public servant, government official, activist in South Africa. The AU is a critical partner in our work against HIV/AIDS, and I don’t think there’s anyone who is better positioned to lead the AU at this time. And the fact she’s the first women to lead the AU in its 50-year history is an additional benefit. Thank you so much, my friend. (Applause.)

And to Senator Enzi and Congresswoman Lee and Congressman Bass, who truly have been leaders, but also represent members of Congress on both sides of the aisle. This is a program that really has had bipartisan support – the leadership of President Bush in creating PEPFAR, the commitment and leadership of President Obama. This is something that I think has really made a difference for Americans and for America. It represents our very best values in practice.

So to all the members of Congress, the advocates and activists, the scientists, people living with HIV, thank you for joining us as we take this next step in the journey we began years ago, but which we formally announced a year ago, to change the course of this pandemic and usher in an AIDS-free generation.

Now, make no mistake about it: HIV may well be with us into the future. But the disease that it causes need not be. We can reach a point where virtually no children are born with the virus, and as these children become teenagers and adults, they are at a far lower risk of becoming infected than they are today. And if they do acquire HIV, they have access to treatment that helps prevent them from not only from developing AIDS, but from and passing the virus on to others.

Now earlier this year, at the International AIDS Conference here in Washington, I described some of the steps we have taken to achieve an AIDS-free generation. And today, I want to step back and make two broad points about this goal.

First, let’s remember why, after so many years of discouraging news, this goal is now possible. By applying evidence-based strategies in the most effective combinations, we have cut the number of new infections dramatically. Just last week, UNAIDS announced that, over the past decade, the rate of new HIV infections has dropped by more than half in 25 low-and-middle-income countries, most of them in Sub-Saharan Africa. Just listen to these numbers: In Zimbabwe, a 50 percent reduction; in Namibia, a 68 percent reduction; and in Malawi, a 73 percent reduction in the rate of new infections.

So as we continue to drive down the number of new infections and drive up the number of people on treatment, eventually we will be able to treat more people than become infected every year. That will be the tipping point. We will then get ahead of the pandemic, and an AIDS-free generation will be in our sight. Now, we don’t know how long it will take to do this everywhere, but we know that we can do it.

And that brings me to the second point: We’ve set the goal. We know it’s possible. Now we have to deliver. That may sound obvious, but it isn’t, because the history of global health and development is littered with grand plans that never panned out. And that matters, because if we make commitments and then fail to keep them, not only will our credibility be diminished, but people will lose heart. They will conclude, wrongly, that progress just isn’t possible, and everyone will lose faith in each other. That will cost lives. And in the fight against HIV/AIDS, failing to live up to our commitments isn’t just disappointing, it is deadly.

That’s why I am so relentlessly focused on delivering results. In July, I asked Eric Goosby and his team to produce a plan to show precisely how America will help achieve an AIDS-free generation. As I said then, I want the next Congress, the next Secretary of State, and our partners everywhere to know how we will contribute to achieving this goal. And the result is the blueprint we are releasing today. It lays out five goals and many specific steps we will take to accomplish those goals.

First, we are committing to rapidly scaling up the most effective prevention and treatment interventions. And today, I can announce some new numbers that show how far we’ve already come. This year, through PEPFAR, we directly supported nearly 5.1 million people on antiretroviral treatment. (Applause.) That is a 200 percent increase since 2008.

Now, think for a moment what this means. What did Florence say was the only hope she could give her fellow women living with HIV? She said it was the ARVs. And this year, the American people gave that hope to more than 5 million of their fellow citizens on this earth. And through them, we gave hope to their families and communities, and I think that should make every American profoundly proud.

Now, our second goal is that the blueprint says we have to go where the virus is, targeting the populations at the greatest risk of contracting HIV, including people who inject drugs, sex workers, and those trafficked into prostitution, and men who have sex with men. (Applause.)

When discrimination, stigma, and other factors drive these groups into the shadows, the epidemic becomes that much harder to fight. That’s why we are supporting country-led plans to expand services for key populations, and bolstering the efforts of civil society groups to reach out to them. And we are investing in research to identify the interventions that are most effective for each key population.

As part of our effort to go where the virus is, we are focusing even more intently on women and girls, because they are still at higher risk then men of acquiring HIV because of gender inequity and violence. So we are working to ensure that HIV/AIDS programs recognize the particular needs of women and girls, for example, by integrating these efforts with family planning and reproductive health services. (Applause.) We are also working to prevent and respond to gender-based violence, invest in girls’ education, address gender inequality, and take other steps that have been proven to lower their risk of contracting the virus.

Third, we will promote sustainability, efficiency, and effectiveness. We’ve already saved hundreds of millions of dollars by switching to generic drugs in our treatment regimen. And we will continue to ensure that we get the most out of every dollar spent.

Fourth, we will promote a global effort to achieve an AIDS-free generation, because this must be a shared responsibility. That means our partner countries must step up to the responsibilities of country ownership. And we look to our partner countries to define the services their people need the most, set priorities, and convene funding partners to coordinate. Donors must meet their funding commitments while also doing more to support country ownership.

To drive all these efforts, the United States will continue to support the Global Fund, we will invest in global health diplomacy, and use our diplomatic leverage to support our goals and bring others to the table.

And I have to say I was so impressed when I was in South Africa this summer. I went to Cape Town. We – Eric and I went together, Ambassador was there, along with the South African Minister of Health, who has been an exemplary leader. Let’s give the Minister of Health of South Africa a round of applause. (Applause.)

He has worked so hard with a great team and with President Zuma’s full support to really take on the responsibility of country ownership and management. And when we were in the clinic in Cape Town, we saw some really impressive developments, including a more efficient way to dispense the drugs that are needed. And it was a great tribute to what the South African Government has been able to do in the last four years.

Now finally – and this is really a call for the entire global health community – science and evidence must continue to guide our work. For our part, the United States will support research on innovative technologies for prevention and treatment, such as microbicides and approaches that stave off opportunistic infections like TB. We will set clear, measurable benchmarks and monitor our progress toward them so we can focus our funding on what works. It is science that has brought us to this point; it is science that will allow us to finish this job.

So with this blueprint, I firmly believe we have laid out a plan that every American president and secretary and Congress will want to build on. And I urge other countries to develop their own blueprints, because to reach and AIDS-free generation, we have to keep moving forward.

So if we have any doubt about the importance of this work, just think of the joy and that big smile on Florence’s face when she told us about giving birth to her two healthy HIV-negative sons. And think of that same sense of joy rippling out across an entire generation, tens of millions of mothers and fathers whose children will be born free of this disease, who will not know the horror of AIDS. That is the world we are working for, and nothing could be more exciting, more inspiring, more deserving of our dedication than that.

So I thank everyone across our government, because I know this was a whole-of-government effort. I thank you all for everything you have done, are doing, and will do to deliver on this important goal.

And now it’s my great pleasure to welcome my friend and partner in the effort to the stage, the leader of UNAIDS, Michel Sidibe. (Applause.)

Statement from HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius on World AIDS Day.

On December 1, World AIDS Day, we remember those we have lost, but also celebrate the remarkable progress made in the global fight against HIV/AIDS. When the first World AIDS Day was observed in 1988, we could not imagine the end of the HIV/AIDS epidemic. For those diagnosed with HIV infection, the future was bleak.
This year, the picture is very different. Scientific advances in understanding HIV, and an increasing number of treatment options, are turning the tide for millions of people living with HIV/AIDS in the U.S. and around the world. We are greatly encouraged by evidence that new HIV infections have declined by 50 percent or more in 25 low and middle income countries.
Smart and thoughtful public policy is also making a difference, as we move steadily toward the goal of creating an AIDS-free generation.
On the domestic front, the Obama Administration’s National HIV/AIDS Strategy (NHAS) continues to provide a compelling vision and roadmap for our efforts to end the epidemic in the U.S. The NHAS helps federal, state and local partners focus on key factors that drive the epidemic and put more resources into the communities and populations with the highest risk. Because of the incredible work and dedication of patients, families, researchers, advocates and communities working together to achieve the vision of the NHAS, we have a unique opportunity to significantly alter the course of the HIV/AIDS epidemic in the United States.
On the global front, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton has released the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) Blueprint: Creating an AIDS-free Generation. The blueprint details what the U.S. Government is contributing toward achieving an AIDS-free generation. The blueprint also highlights that the U.S. will remain committed to fighting global AIDS, but recognizes that this is a shared responsibility in which everyone has a role to play, with country governments in the lead.
I am proud of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ (HHS) leadership role in the global response. Many of our agencies—including the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the National Institutes of Health, the Health Resources and Services Administration, the Food and Drug Administration, and the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration; as well as our Office of Global Affairs —conduct global HIV activities as PEPFAR implementers. Through these efforts, strong partnerships have been formed between HHS and the ministries of health of countries deeply affected by the epidemic. The scientific and technical expertise that HHS brings to the U.S. efforts make it a key partner in implementing the Blueprint, as it is in implementing the NHAS.
Together, the domestic NHAS and the global Blueprint offer the Administration’s vision of the way to reach the goal of an AIDS-free generation. Very specific action steps have been taken to help move us forward in that direction.
One of the key steps in the domestic response to HIV/AIDS is the Affordable Care Act (ACA), which President Obama signed in March 2010. Because of the ACA, an estimated 30 million Americans will gain access to health insurance by 2021. This will increase access to critical HIV testing and prevention services, as well as access to life-extending care and treatment for people living with HIV/AIDS.
Consistent with the goals of the NHAS, the ACA makes considerable strides in advancing equality for and helping people living with HIV/AIDS get the health insurance and care they need and deserve. When fully implemented, insurers will be prohibited from denying coverage to anyone or imposing annual limits on coverage—an important protection for people living with HIV/AIDS.
Many other provisions in the law are already helping people living with HIV/AIDS, including discounts for Medicare beneficiaries on covered brand name drugs in the “donut hole” and the ability to count benefits from the AIDS Drug Assistance Program as contributions toward Medicare Part D’s true Out of Pocket Spending Limit. These provide significant relief for low-income people living with HIV/AIDS.
Preventive measures are critical for those at risk for, or living with, HIV/AIDS. Many private health insurance plans must now cover, at no additional cost, recommended preventive services, such as regular check-ups and certain cancer screenings. In addition, most private health plans must now cover HIV testing without a co-pay for adults and adolescents at higher risk and HIV testing and counseling for sexually active women. Medicare also covers certain recommended preventive services, including HIV screening for individuals at increased risk, without cost-sharing or deductibles. These preventive measures help people living with HIV/AIDS stay healthy while preventing the spread of HIV.
The ACA also improves prevention efforts by making critical investments in public health surveillance, community-based programs, and outreach. To ensure all populations are treated equitably, the law expands initiatives to strengthen cultural competency training for all healthcare providers. It bolsters Federal commitment to reducing health disparities, expands the healthcare workforce, and increases funding for community health centers. Each of these efforts helps to protect those at greatest risk for, or living with, HIV/AIDS.
Because of the ACA, a series of investments to help providers support patients with chronic disease like HIV/AIDS are available. Under the law, states can receive extra federal funding to support high-quality coordinated care through Health Homes for Medicaid beneficiaries with chronic health needs. The goal of a Health Home is to treat the whole person, coordinating all their care from primary and acute care to behavioral health and long-term services.
Today, I am proud to announce that we will be issuing a rule to explicitly include HIV/AIDS on the list of chronic conditions that every state may target in designing effective Health Homes. This will make it easier for states to provide coordinated care for people living with HIV/AIDS.
Finally, we persist in our work to fight the stigma that continues to hamper our attempts to address the threat of HIV/AIDS. Several efforts, including CDC’s “Let’s Stop HIV Together” and “Testing Makes Us Stronger” campaigns address stigma and discrimination.
Individuals can also take direct action to fight this stigma. We encourage people to join with thousands of others in an innovative photo-sharing initiative called “Facing AIDS.”
Individuals can also utilize’s Smartphone app to take their own photo, write their own message, and upload it to the online gallery. By putting human faces to HIV/AIDS, we can help reduce the stigma around the disease and promote HIV testing.
Every World AIDS Day brings us closer to an AIDS-free generation. I am grateful to be part of an Administration and Department that are committed to that goal. I am also grateful to those who work diligently every day to put an end to the HIV/AIDS epidemic—both here in the U.S. and around the world.

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