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Vol. LXIII, No. 24
November 25, 2011
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A Stand for Science
At NIH, Secretary of State Clinton Charts Course to an ‘AIDS-Free Generation’

On the front page...

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton addresses a Masur Auditorium audience Nov. 8.
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton addresses a Masur Auditorium audience Nov. 8.

We have the power to eliminate a deadly pandemic that has plagued the world for the last 30 years. Working together, we can create an “AIDS-free generation.” That’s what Secretary of State Hillary Clinton announced at NIH on Nov. 8.

“AIDS is still an incurable disease, but it no longer has to be a death sentence,” Clinton declared. “Today, thanks both to new knowledge and to new ways of applying it, we have the chance to give countless lives and futures to millions of people who are alive today, but equally—if not more importantly—to an entire generation yet to be born.”

Her visit kicked off preparation for World AIDS Day activities on Dec. 1 and the international conference “AIDS 2012” that will be held in Washington, D.C., next June.

Continued...

Warm Reception, Regard

On arrival, Clinton was greeted by NIH director Dr. Francis Collins, along with NIAID director Dr. Anthony Fauci, Clinical Center director Dr. John Gallin, NCI director Dr. Harold Varmus and NIDA director Dr. Nora Volkow.

Fauci, in opening remarks, recalled Clinton’s long history of support for NIH. He remembered her February 1994 visit to the Clinical Center as First Lady. Her tour included several patient care units for people infected with HIV.

Clinton, shown here meeting long-time friends NIAID director Dr. Anthony Fauci (l) and NIH director Dr. Francis Collins, says science has a major role to play in defeating HIV/AIDS: “If we are going to make the most of this moment, there are steps we must take together. First, we need to let science guide our efforts.”
Clinton, shown here meeting long-time friends NIAID director Dr. Anthony Fauci (l) and NIH director Dr. Francis Collins, says science has a major role to play in defeating HIV/AIDS: “If we are going to make the most of this moment, there are steps we must take together. First, we need to let science guide our efforts.”

“Her interest in and commitment to this critical public health issue were keen then and remain so today,” Fauci said. “The relationship continues in her current position as Secretary of State, where her strong and compassionate leadership in the arena of global health and her support for the role of biomedical research in this endeavor are greatly appreciated. She has been a wonderful friend throughout the years.”

Introducing the Secretary of State, Collins said that in his own 20-year acquaintance with Clinton, he has always appreciated her strong voice on any number of biomedical science topics, including his field of genome research.

“In matters of global health,” he noted, “she is a champion of making decisions based on evidence… Her insights have always been far-ranging and thought-provoking. I know our horizons will be widened today by what Madame Secretary has to say about the HIV/AIDS pandemic and about how we might work together...to end this deadly scourge once and for all.”

The Masur Auditorium audience welcomed Clinton with an extended standing ovation.

“For me this is a special treat,” Clinton said, “because here in this room are some of America’s best scientists and most passionate advocates— true global heroes and heroines—in an institution that is on the front lines of the fight against HIV/AIDS.”

Nod to Good Work by Government

Clinton spent a few moments reflecting on how far the world has come since June 1981, when a mysterious new disease was first being reported. She talked also about the many successful discoveries as well as other scientific developments and policies—led and funded by the federal government— to fight AIDS over the past 30 years.

“Let’s remind ourselves no institution in the world has done more than the United States government,” she pointed out. “We have produced a track record of excellence in science…I want the American people to understand the irreplaceable role the United States has played in the fight against HIV/AIDS. It is their tax dollars—our tax dollars—that have made this possible.”

Clinton is greeted at the Clinical Center’s south entrance lobby by (from l) CC director Dr. John Gallin, NIDA director Dr. Nora Volkow, NCI director Dr. Harold Varmus, Fauci and Collins.

Clinton is greeted at the Clinical Center’s south entrance lobby by (from l) CC director Dr. John Gallin, NIDA director Dr. Nora Volkow, NCI director Dr. Harold Varmus, Fauci and Collins.

Photos: Bill Branson, Ernie Branson

She acknowledged that the U.S. has made such a huge difference with help from such partners as other governments, private organizations and particularly by teaming up with groups led by people living with HIV/AIDS.

However, she said, continuing to stress the federal government’s role, “the world could not have come this far without us and it will not defeat AIDS without us...Our efforts have helped set the stage…to change the course of this pandemic and to usher in an AIDS-free generation.”

Three Keys to AIDS-Free

 Clinton talks about an AIDS-free generation within our grasp, as Fauci and Collins applaud.
Clinton talks about an AIDS-free generation within our grasp, as Fauci and Collins applaud.

Clinton defined an AIDS-free generation as one in which “virtually no children are born with the virus.” Then, as these children grow into their teen years and adulthood, they are at “far lower risk of becoming infected than they would be today,” and finally, “if they do acquire HIV, they have access to treatment that prevents them from developing AIDS and passing the virus on to others.”

She outlined three key strategies to create such a generation:

  • End mother-to-child transmissions,
  • Expand voluntary medical male circumcision,
  • Scale up treatment for people already living with HIV/AIDS.

“Now let me be clear,” she said. “None of the interventions I’ve described can create an AIDS-free generation by itself. But used in combination with each other and with other powerful prevention methods, they do present an extraordinary opportunity.”

Stand for Science, Evidence

Fauci and Collins chat with the Secretary of State en route to Masur Auditorium.
Fauci and Collins chat with the Secretary of State en route to Masur Auditorium.

Clinton offered another hearty endorsement for research and science in general. “If we are going to make the most of this moment,” she said, “there are steps we must take together. First, we need to let science guide our efforts. Success depends on deploying our tools based on the best available evidence.

“Now, I know that occasionally it feels in and around Washington that there are some who wish us to live in an evidence-free zone,” she quipped, drawing laughter and applause. “But it’s imperative that we stand up for evidence and for science. Facts are stubborn things, and we need to keep putting them out there…Eventually we will prevail.”

‘Smartest Investment’

Closing her 20-minute address, she said despite tough financial conditions, our nation’s wisest course of action has always been—and will always be—to look out for our children and grandchildren who will live long after we do.

“In these difficult budget times, we have to remember that investing in our future is the smartest investment we can make,” she said. “Generations of American policymakers and taxpayers have supported NIH, medical research, scientific work—not because we thought everything was going to produce an immediate result, but because we believe that through these investments, human progress would steadily, steadily continue. Let’s not stop now.” NIHRecord Icon


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