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 You are in: Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice > Former Secretaries of State > Former Secretary of State Colin L. Powell > Speeches and Remarks > 2003 > May

Bill-Signing Ceremony for the U.S. Leadership Against HIV/AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria Act of 2003

Secretary Colin L. Powell and Secretary of Health and Human Services Tommy Thompson
Dean Acheson Auditorium, State Department
Washington, DC
May 27, 2003

President Bush and Secretary Powell during bill-signing ceremony for the U.S. Leadership Against HIV/AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria Act of 2003 at the Department of StateSECRETARY POWELL: Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen. Mr. President, I am very honored to again welcome you to your State Department. I also want to welcome the distinguished members of the House and Senate who are here with us today, the distinguished ambassadors behind me, [Secretary] Thompson, and our many other guests who are here today to witness this very, very important and historic signing ceremony.

As the President has said, "The advance of freedom and hope is challenged by the spread of AIDS." With President Bush's leadership and the overwhelming bipartisan support of the Congress, the United States continues to be the world's most powerful force for freedom and for hope. The spread of political and economic liberties, and breakthroughs in technology, permit us to truly envision a day in this century when most of humanity can be freed from tyranny and poverty.

Yet these promising trends, which America has done so much to advance, can be reversed if AIDS is left to rage. HIV is one of the biggest killers on the face of the earth. It is more devastating than any army, any conflict, or any weapon of mass destruction. Responding to HIV/AIDS is not only a humanitarian and a public health issue; HIV/AIDS also carries profound implications for prosperity, democracy and security. President Bush's leadership in the international campaign against AIDS is a dramatic demonstration of his deep commitment to work at home and abroad for a safer, freer, better world for all people.

As the President has said, "Seldom has history offered a greater opportunity to do so much for so many." And the passage by Congress of the "U.S. Leadership Against HIV/AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria Act of 2003" helps us seize that opportunity.

I want especially to thank Senator Bill Frist for his skillful stewardship of the legislation and for his passion as both a statesman and physician in the fight against HIV/AIDS. I also want to thank Congressman Tom Lantos and Chairman Henry Hyde, who is not here with us today but is here with us in spirit, as well as the leadership of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, for their energetic efforts to see the bill successfully through both houses of Congress. The initiatives funded by this pathbreaking legislation are in the best tradition of the American people. I am pleased to have so many ambassadors here. AIDS is a challenge for all of our countries
and the United States will be your partner in this fight.

My colleague, Secretary of Health and Human Services Tommy Thompson, has been a tireless advocate for this legislation. He has seen first-hand the catastrophic effects of AIDS, and I could not ask for a more determined or effective colleague in the President's campaign against HIV/AIDS than Tommy Thompson.

And so now it is now my pleasure to introduce to you all the Secretary of Health and Human Services, and my good friend, Secretary Tommy Thompson. (Applause.)

SECRETARY THOMPSON: Thank you very much, Mr. President. Thank you, Secretary Powell. I want to thank all of the members from Congress and the Ambassadors for their tremendous support in this legislation. But like Colin and all of our colleagues, I am very proud to work for a President who cares so much about health that he exercises and eats right.   (Laughter.)

He encourages our fellow Americans to develop healthy habits. Best of all, he encourages Congress and State Legislators to ensure that Americans have more choices for health insurance and healthcare, and the high quality of care that such competition provides. Thanks to people like him, Americans have an optimistic view of their health. We are living longer and living better; and we like it.

Until very recently, that view in Africa and the Caribbean was just the opposite; particularly when it comes to AIDS. The spirit I saw there can only be described as hopelessness. As recently as a few months ago, the health ministers of those affected nations waged a lonely and a doomed fight. Look at what they confronted:

In Sub-Saharan Africa, almost 9% of adults have HIV/AIDS. That is already more than 25 million people, including 3 million younger than 15. Every day more than 14,000 additional Africans contract the virus and every day almost 8,500 die from it.

Experts projected that over the next 20 years it would kill 55 million Africans. In 10 years there would be 40 million orphans. In Botswana, 38 percent of adults have the virus and life expectancy has fallen below 40 years. AIDS ruthlessly strikes people down before their time, destroys economies, families, orphans, children and breeds despair.

This year, the spirit and the reality have changed. Last week in Geneva, I met with the health ministers from the countries included in the President's plan. Their eyes were glowing. Their plans were energetic. For the first time in years, hope was in their hearts. And they give the credit to the willingness of one nation and one President to fight beside them to prevent and to treat and to turn the tide against AIDS. As Chairman of the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Malaria, and Tuberculosis, I share their passion, their gratitude and their thanks. And every one of them says, "Please tell the President thank you from the bottom of our hearts."

So I am very privileged today to introduce a wonderful leader, a great friend, a person leading on a very noble cause, ladies and gentlemen, the President of the United States of America.  (Applause.)

Released on May 27, 2003

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