November 12, 2008
- Thank you, ladies and gentlemen.
- Thank you, Dr. Frazer and Representative Payne.
- And Thank you, Julius and Africare for putting together such a memorable evening.
- It’s an honor to be here tonight to celebrate what will be the legacy of President George W. Bush: his historic and unprecedented commitment to the people of Africa.
- For more than twenty years, I’ve traveled to underserved areas in the developing world, often conflict nations, with World Medical Missions – not as a senator, not as an official representing the U.S. – but as a single volunteer equipped with the tools of medicine and surgery, with a goal to touch individual lives.
- My own interest in HIV began as a surgical resident in Boston, who in 1981, when AIDS was first observed in the U.S., really could not fathom that a single virus could so easily devastate one’s immune system and ability to fight infections.
- I went on to become a transplant specialist where we had to become experts in immune system depression and infectious disease – and over the next 20 years in medicine I watched this single virus, spread to become what is now a pandemic of biblical proportions.
- What bothered me – as the first physician elected to the Senate since 1928 – was that the U.S gave some lip service to global HIV, but in reality we as a nation remained on the sidelines, as societies around the world were hollowed out.
- But this changed because of the leadership of one man. President Bush – yes, a Repbulican, who had never been to Africa -- said that we Americans will act in a way that is bigger and better than any country had acted against a single disease in history.
- He said we will lead the world – and we did.
- I remember in the year 2000 going to the Cabinet room in the White House for a regular Senate leadership meeting with the President. I had just been elected as the most junior member in leadership … so my time for comment around that big oval table would always come last.
- We had covered taxation, Afghanistan, prescription drugs, the Middle East, and domestic economic policy. So, with a picture in my pocket of a young woman who was suffering from HIV, I mentioned what I had seen and treated on my mission trips.
- The President came alive. Sitting on the edge of his seat, he spoke with passion about what he had learned; he knew the magnitude of the problem, he knew the names of the ARVs, he described how Nivirapine could save the lives of newborns -- he made it clear that he would act.
- And act he did.
- President Bush hosted a very small dinner in early-January 2003 in the Red Room at the White House. He invited Karyn and me, Kofi Annan, and four others for a very special occasion: he announced privately what he would reveal to the nation the next week: his Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief.
- In the 2003 State of the Union address, President Bush asked “Congress to commit $15 billion dollars over the next five years to turn the tide against AIDS in the most afflicted nations of Africa and the Caribbean.”
- I was blown away.
- After his speech that night, I was interviewed by the media, as a Senator, and I told a reporter, “Five years from now, all anyone will remember will be President Bush’s historic announcement to combat HIV/AIDS in Africa.”
- And here we are, five years from that moment, celebrating this momentous commitment to Africa, including --
--the lives of 1.6 million Africans who are now receiving treatment because of PEPFAR
-- another 2 million through our contributions to the Global Fund
--the 12.7 million pregnancies in which mother-to-infant transmission was prevented
--and the care of over 6.6 million people with HIV/AIDS.
- Other Initiatives in Africa led by President Bush include the following:
1. Malaria: His five-year, $1.2 billion effort to combat malaria has provided 4 million insecticide-treated bed nets and 7 million drug therapies to vulnerable people
2. Sudan. In Sudan, the United States played a central role as peacemaker in ending a 20-year civil war between the Arab north and African south, which killed 2 million people.
3. Genocide. It was the Bush administration that first raised the alarm about the atrocities in Darfur.
4. Trade: The Africa Growth and Opportunity Act, approved in 2000 and reauthorized in expanded form in 2004, provides trade benefits with the United States for 40 African countries that have implemented reforms to encourage economic growth.
5. MCC: Africa has received $3.5 billion in additional funds from Bush's Millennium Challenge Corporation initiative, which rewards poor countries that encourage economic growth, govern well, and provide social services for their people.
- America is spreading peace through health. It is medicine as a currency for peace. It is health diplomacy at its best.
- We pay tribute tonight to President George W. Bush who has proven to be the world’s leader in the crisis of AIDS in Africa.
- He launched an amazing beginning, but we still have a long way to go.
- Because for every 1 person we treat, 4 more are newly infected. And only 1 in 10 with HIV actually knows that they are infected.
- There is much work to be done. And that is why your support of Africare and its missions is so vital.
- Please join me tonight in pledging our continued support for Africare to lead us in the fight against global disease and extreme poverty.
- Thank You and God Bless.