Mexico City–President Clinton addressed the International AIDS Conference here today.
“AIDS is a very big dragon,” he said. “The mythological dragon was slain by St. George, the original knight in shining armor. But this dragon must be slain instead by millions and millions of foot soldiers.”
Clinton cited his HIV/AIDS work in Africa and specifically mentioned the case of the 15-year-old boy and the boy’s sister, Eugenie, whom Clinton had visited in Rwanda earlier on the trip. The former President said he had told the boy, Jean-Pierre, not to give up hope and to keep up with his education. Jean-Pierre said he wanted to be a doctor so that he could help others, Clinton said.
Reacting to the recent announcement by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that there are 56,000 more new HIV infections a year than had previously been reported in the U.S., Clinton said: “For Americans, this should be a wake-up call. Even as we fight the epidemic globally, we must focus at home. And I intend to do so with my foundation.”
The last official event of Clinton’s 19,000-mile tour through Africa and Mexico was the announcement of new initiatives in three Latin American countries:
- Support for 50,000 cataract surgeries over three years in Peru. Cataracts are the number one cause of blindness in the developing world, according to WHO statistics. Last year, the government of Peru reported 83,000 untreated cases.
- A $20 million project to strengthen small- and medium-sized businesses in under-served areas of Colombia.
- A $20 million education project in Mexico.
Clinton was joined by philanthropists Frank Giustra and Carlos Slim and President of the Inter-American Development Bank Luis Moreno. “The projects we’re announcing today should help improve the lives of thousands of people,” Clinton said.
“I am always proud when I hear we are starting more initiatives,” an official of the Clinton Foundation was heard to remark as we left for the airport.
I climbed on the plane back to New York with my head crammed with the sights and sounds of this trip. Bill Clinton has been out of the presidency for nearly eight years, but, as he remarked on one occasion to me on this journey, he has “not been sitting on the beach.”
He referred to his work as a “private citizen” on another occasion. But with the Secret Service permanently around him and some 600 people working in his Foundation, and with the respectful way he is treated by heads of government and the world’s wealthiest people, he is not a “private” citizen.
I wondered if the wild and crazy pace of this trip–five countries in four days for those of us who started late–was a metaphor for Clinton’s post-presidential life: racing through each day, seemingly wanting to have a finger in as many pies as possible.
In Rwanda he indicated to me what he hoped his legacy might be: Whatever happened to him or his foundation, he said, he hoped that he would leave something for others to build on. “I want, in every country I possibly can, to have left a system that other people can access and improve.”
Related Stories and Links:
- Trip to Africa Blog (Bill Clinton and staff of the William J. Clinton Foundation)
- Traveling Through West Africa With president Clinton (Mark Leon Goldberg, The Huffington Post)
- Stern Constitutions Needed for Globe-Trotting With Bill Clinton (Anne E. Kornblut, The Washington Post)
- 4 events, 4 countries, 2 continents, 2 planes, 24 hours (Justin Sullivan, At Home and on the Road)