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Remarks on the Appointment of Patsy Fleming as National AIDS Policy Director and an Exchange With Reporters

November 10, 1994

The President. Thank you very much, Secretary Shalala, ladies and gentlemen. In the last 13 years, AIDS has claimed the lives of more than a quarter million of our fellow citizens.

Today, it is the leading cause of death among all Americans between the ages of 25 and 44.

For nearly every American now, the face of AIDS is no longer the face of a stranger but the face of a friend. Now more than ever, we must redouble our efforts for effective treatments, for a vaccine, for a cure.

I have committed this administration to working hard to stop the spread of HIV and to finding a cure for AIDS. In the last 2 years, as Secretary Shalala said, we've increased the Federal resources directed at AIDS by 30 percent. We've increased funding for AIDS-related research by 25 percent, funding for the Ryan White Care Act by 82 percent, bringing services to thousands of Americans who are in desperate need of medical and social services. We've reorganized the Office of AIDS Research at NIH. And we've done this at a time when, this year, for the first time in 25 years, there was an actual reduction in Federal domestic, as well as, defense spending. We've stepped up our efforts to develop and improve new AIDS drugs. We're working hard to find an effective vaccine. We've put forth a very frank HIV prevention campaign aimed at young adults.

And soon we'll announce the creation of a new advisory council made up of experts from the community to advise our administration on the important steps that must still be taken in this fight. We're making progress, but we have to keep pressing forward. Defeating this epidemic demands a disciplined and passionate approach.

That's why I'm so pleased to announce the appointment of Patsy Fleming to serve as the AIDS Policy Director here at the White House. For more than a decade, she has been an important voice in our national response to HIV and AIDS. She helped to shape our new AIDS education message and push for aggressive AIDS drug development. She put together an immediate response to research results that could help to stem the rate of infection from infants born to HIV positive women.

In her short tenure as the interim AIDS Policy Coordinator, her tremendous performance convinced me that she is the best person for the job. And I'm glad she decided to accept my request that she stay on. She'll head a newly structured AIDS Policy Office. She'll have direct access to me, to members of the Cabinet. She'll play an important role in developing our budget and our policy proposals.

I ask her to provide me with a detailed report on the rapid increase of AIDS among adolescents and to examine the efforts we are now making to reverse these terribly troubling trends. As we continue our struggle against this disease, I'm pleased to have her at my side.

And as I ask her to come up and make remarks, I'd just like to remind all of you that— and all the people who are watching this day— that this is a disease with a human face. And my human face today is—I would like to dedicate this announcement to my dear friend Elizabeth Glaser.

Thank you.

Do you want the box back? Where's the box?

Ms. Fleming. I'm a little shorter than you are.

Secretary Shalala. It's my box. [Laughter]

The President. This is a step up. [Laughter]

[At this point, Ms. Fleming thanked the President and outlined her agenda as Director of the Office of National AIDS Policy.]

Representative Newt Gingrich

Q. Mr. President, can you respond to Newt Gingrich calling you a "countercultural McGovern-nik"? [Laughter]

The President. I'm a middle-age man who's worked very hard in his life—[laughter]—to be a mainstream American. And I think I've done a reasonable job of it.

Q. Do you think this will make it harder to work with him if he keeps coming out with statements like that, sir?

The President. Oh, the American people can draw their own conclusions. I can only control my own words and my own deeds. My hand is open to them—[inaudible].

Office of National AIDS Policy

Q. Sir, a question on AIDS. AIDS activists and gay groups have demanded you pick a prominent, high-profile czar and also asked for a seat at the Cabinet table. Why did you choose this route and what about the seat at the Cabinet table?

The President. Because I think that—I made a decision that—the most important thing we could have is a good advocate, is a person I knew, had great confidence in, and had real access to the White House and a real chance to influence me and my decisions.

I think it was the right decision. And a very large number of people who are interested in AIDS recommended it to me even before I told them I was thinking about it. So I think that the people who are here can answer the question better than me.

Thank you.

NOTE: The President spoke at 1:55 p.m. in the Roosevelt Room at the White House.

William J. Clinton, Remarks on the Appointment of Patsy Fleming as National AIDS Policy Director and an Exchange With Reporters Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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