Reagan Outlines AIDS Program
Following are excerpts from a speech President Reagan gave during an awards dinner sponsored by the American Foundation for AIDS Research, which was held in conjunction with last week's meeting of the Third International Conference on AIDS in Washington.
America faces a disease that is fatal and spreading, and this calls for urgency, not panic. It calls for passion, not blame. And it calls for understanding, not ignorance. It's also important that America not reject those who have [acquired immune deficiency syndrome], but care for them with dignity and kindness. This is a battle against a disease, not against our fellow Americans.
We mustn't allow those with the AIDS virus to suffer discrimination. I agree with Secretary of Education [William J.] Bennett: We must firmly oppose discrimination against those who have AIDS. ...
The Public Health Service has stated that there's no medical reason for barring a person with the virus from any routine school or work activity. There's no reason for those who carry the AIDS virus to wear a scarlet "A.''
AIDS is not a casually contagious disease. We're still learning about how AIDS is transmitted, but experts tell us you don't get it from telephones or swimming pools or drinking fountains. You don't get it from shaking hands or sitting on a bus, or anywhere else, for that matter. And most important, you don't get AIDS by donating blood.
Education is critical to clearing up the fears. Education is also crucial to stopping the transmission of the disease. Since we don't yet have a cure or a vaccine, the only thing that can halt the spread of AIDS right now is a change in the behavior of those Americans who are at risk.
As I've said before, the federal role is to provide scientific, factual information. Corporations can help get the information out. So can community and religious groups. And, of course, so can the schools, with guidance from the parents and with the commitment, I hope, that AIDS education or any aspect of sex education will not be "value neutral.''
A dean of St. Paul's Cathedral in London once said, "The aim of education is the knowledge not of facts, but of values.'' Well, that's not too far off. Education is knowing how to adapt, to grow, to understand the world around us. And values are how we guide ourselves through the decisions of life.
How we behave sexually is one of those decisions. As Surgeon General [C. Everett] Koop has pointed out, if children are taught their own worth, we can expect them to treat themselves and others with greater respect. And wherever you have self-respect and mutual respect, you don't have drug abuse and sexual promiscuity--which, of course, are the two major causes of AIDS.