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U.S., French First Ladies Hear AIDS Patients’ Concerns

February 2, 1996

WASHINGTON (AP) _ Five women living with the AIDS virus voiced their concerns to the first ladies of the United States and France on Thursday and presented them with ``Dance of Life’ pins worn by participants in a medical study.

Hillary Rodham Clinton and Bernadette Chirac, the wife of visiting French President Jacques Chirac met with the women for about an hour at the Whitman-Walker clinic’s Elizabeth Taylor Medical Center.

Mrs. Chirac, who is active in AIDS causes in France, told them ``I am sure we shall succeed″ in providing a better life for women carrying the HIV virus that causes AIDS.

The women, participants in a four-year study on HIV and women, told the first ladies they were concerned about health care, their self-esteem, help for their families, funding for AIDS research and educating others about the fatal disease.

Mavis Belt called AIDS a ``lonesome disease,″ and said she wished there was more on television about it. Children especially need to be targeted, she said, adding that it was ``ignorance″ that gave her the disease.

``When I first heard about AIDS, I thought I was exempt. Then when I found out I was HIV-positive, I thought I was unique,″ she said. ``I just want people to know ... there is information out there.″

Maria Brooks asked the first ladies to ``just give us your support, because there are a lot of us out there that are really hurting.″

Health and Human Services Secretary Donna Shalala, who also attended, said world health officials are just starting to deal with the impact of AIDS on women. ``We have a long way to go,″ she said.

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