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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 > September

Presentation at HIV/AIDS Plenary

Secretary Colin L. Powell
United Nations Headquarters
New York City
September 22, 2003


(3:05 p.m. EDT)

SECRETARY POWELL: Mr. President, distinguished colleagues, ladies and gentlemen, United States Health and Human Services Secretary Tommy Thompson and I are pleased to join in this high level plenary and to reaffirm President Bush's abiding commitment to the global fight against HIV/AIDS.

President Bush believes strongly that "The advance of freedom and hope is challenged by the spread of AIDS." And all who join in the worldwide campaign against AIDS serve on the frontlines of freedom and hope.

Two years ago, our heads of state and government assembled here, assembled here for a special session on the global HIV/AIDS crisis. We solemnly adopted a comprehensive declaration of commitment that could help turn the pandemic around. In the two years since that special session, six million more people have died of AIDS, and ten million more have been infected with the HIV virus that causes AIDS. In all, 42 million people now live with the disease, and tens of millions are at risk, high risk, of infection.

Most of those infected are between the ages of 15 and 24, and nearly half of them are women. And as so many of you have done, I too have looked into the eyes of young mothers terminally ill with AIDS, mothers who feel their children's uncertain future more than they fear their own certain death. The mothers make memory books so that their children will have something to touch and hold and remind them that once upon a time, there was someone who loved them.

AIDS has left 15 million orphans, and unless we stem the tide, that number will swell to 25 million by the end of this decade. The vast majority of these children are likely to live without emotional support, without the barest of physical necessities, and without any prospects for the future.

Unless we act effectively, these precious children are likely to perish in the same cycle of disease, destitution, despair and death that took the lives of their parents. The appalling statistics do not begin to describe the magnitude of the destruction wrought by AIDS. AIDS is more devastating than any terrorist attack, any conflict or any weapon of mass destruction. It kills indiscriminately, and without mercy.

As cruel as any tyrant, the virus can crush the human spirit. It is an insidious and relentless foe. AIDS shatters families, tears the fabric of societies, and undermines governments. AIDS can destroy countries and destabilize entire regions.

Two years after the United Nations special session, AIDS continues to present all of us with profound moral, political, economic and security challenges. Two years after the adoption of our declaration of commitment, the international community continues to face an AIDS crisis of global proportions. Our task remains enormous, yet important progress has been made.

Only two years ago, the global fund to fight AIDS, tuberculosis, and malaria was still just an idea endorsed by President Bush and Secretary General Annan. Today, it is a reality. Two years ago, President Bush pledged the founding $200 million for the global fund. Our pledge has risen to $1.6 billion out of the total of $4.7 billion in pledges made to date worldwide. And the United States proudly remains the largest single contributor to the fund.

New contributions to the fund are coming in from around the globe. And grants have been approved to over 90 countries. The fund is already helping to deliver lifesaving treatments, and to prevent new infections.

This month, the members of the World Trade Organization agreed on a framework for implementing the DOHA declaration on trade-related aspects of intellectual property rights known at TRIPS, and on public health. This will give poor countries greater access to low-cost, high-quality medicines that are needed to treat diseases such as HIV/AIDS. At the same time, the vital incentives for research into the next generation of treatments will be preserved.

Since the special session two years ago, we have also seen a change in attitudes. Like all great evils, AIDS feeds on ignorance and fear. When people lack knowledge of how infections can be prevented, and when those infected as stigmatized and driven into the shadows, the virus thrives, and hope withers.

More and more public figures are speaking out, shattering the silence that kills. They are sending the message that people living with AIDS should not be treated with cruelty and discrimination, but instead with dignity and with compassion. Indeed, the declaration of commitment has given all of us ideas that have helped to focus our efforts. We must keep pressing forward to achieve the declaration's targets.

I urge the General Assembly to adopt a resolution reaffirming the need for all nations to reach the goals outlined in the declaration, starting with the targets for the year 2003. For our part, the United States will remain at the forefront of the worldwide effort to combat AIDS. As President Bush has said, "In the face of preventable death and suffering, we have a moral duty to act", and we are acting. The United States remains the largest donor of bilateral HIV/AIDS assistance, providing almost half of all international HIV/AIDS funding in 2002.

We have bilateral programs in over 75 countries. In January, President Bush announced his $15 billion five year emergency plan for HIV/AIDS relief. And in May, it was signed into law with overwhelming Congressional support. This plan, the largest single commitment of funds in history for an international public health initiative on a specific disease, we are very proud of.

The President has asked Congress for over $2 billion in 2004, and under the plan, we would steadily increase our annual expenditures over the next four years. The plan will continue our broad bilateral programs while focusing on 14 of the most affected countries in Africa, and the Caribbean. The plan will treat two million people living with HIV/AIDS with anti-retroviral drugs, and it will care for ten million HIV-infected individuals and AIDS orphans.

My country continues to be the largest donor to UNAIDS. And we will be issuing another grant for $100 million. We are doing everything we can to support the declaration. And as the declaration so strongly underscores, governments alone cannot begin to address the global AIDS crisis. We must make the private sector an integral part of our efforts. And this is why President Bush deliberately made partnership with the private sector a key element of our emergency plan for AIDS relief.

In the worldwide fight against AIDS, every nation, large or small, developed or developing, must be a leader and a partner. And in the fight against AIDS, all countries have a strong and committed ally in the United States of America. Together, we can help break the vicious cycle of this devastating disease. May this high level plenary strengthen our resolve to fulfill the declaration of commitment we made two years ago. May we work together to replace ignorance with information, shame with support, and despair with dreams for a brighter future.

All of God's children deserve to live in dignity and in safety, in health and in hope. By working in partnership against AIDS, we can ensure that millions of children have their mothers, and not just scrapbooks to remember them by. Thank you very much, my colleagues.

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