At the swearing in ceremony for Ambassador Deborah Birx as the new Global AIDS Coordinator today at the State Department, Secretary John Kerry told the very personal story of Dr. Birx’s first brush with HIV/AIDS in the early 1980s. Ambassador Birx had lost a lot of blood as she was in labor with her daughter, and when she was told she needed a blood transfusion, she recalled reading about a mysterious new disease, and right before she passed out from pain, she yelled, “Do not give me a blood transfusion!”
Her husband then denied a transfusion, and they later learned the supply for her blood type was tainted with HIV/AIDS. Secretary Kerry said she went on to become a tireless leader in the fight against HIV, and is now “a pioneer as the first woman and first veteran to take this most high honor” as global AIDS coordinator.
“I am very, very proud that now we will be fighting side by side,” Kerry said. “Debbie is the perfect person to take this job because she acts with urgency,” he said.
“If we begin to drift, lessen our aspirations, or leave behind science, we risk not only squandering the amazing investment made by American taxpayers, but also risk losing what we’ve already achieved,” Birx said.
“We owe it to those who came before us and those who died to finish this job,” she said.