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Global Business Coalition on HIV/AIDS Awards Dinner

Location: Unknown

[Comments as delivered may be different.]

Thank you, Glenn, for that generous introduction.

I am honored to be here this evening with the members of the Global Business Coalition on HIV/AIDS; with Secretary Powell, whose longstanding commitment on this issue, has lately moved our government to do more at a time when so much needs to be done; and with Senator Frist, who has worked with me on several legislative initiatives over the past four years to put the United States where it belongs—in the front lines of the international fight against AIDS.

I want to salute Juergen Schremmp, the Chair of the Coalition, and Ambassador Holbrooke, its President, for their leadership. And I want to recognize Ben Plumley, the Executive Director of the Coalition, who is leaving soon to return to UNAIDS. Thank you Ben for all of your good work.

We know now that HIV/AIDS is the great medical and moral crisis of our times. Medical because it is a global killer and it kills indiscriminately—men and women, young and old alike. It shatters families, stalks communities, destroys economies, and even threatens the very existence of nations.

The HIV/AIDS pandemic is a public health, a social and humanitarian disaster and some of that disaster is manmade. The virus is a formidable enemy, but moral indifference is its foremost ally.

The lack of leadership, the continuing reign of ignorance and shame, the stigmatization of people living with AIDS, the failure to provide full funding for prevention and treatment: these, too, are the seedbed of the disease; they, too, are killers.
History and conscience alike will hold us accountable for this truth: We have a way to stop AIDS if we have the will to act.
No one any longer can turn aside and pretend that they do not see. More of our fellow human beings have fallen to AIDS than fell to the bubonic plague in medieval Europe—and the toll is rising, and so is the threat.

…An army of orphans is being raised on dusty streets. A great continent, the birth-place of the human race, is literally being decimated, and even more who live there will die if they are not treated.

We have the capacity to help and to heal. Half measures will not do. It is time to do what is right, not only because it is, but because it is a fundamental matter of national security.

Our ideals may demand compassion, but our interests command us to action.

As we know too well, we now inhabit an interconnected interdependent planet, increasingly small and vulnerable, where danger is no longer defined by troops massed along a border or an economic depression that ripples across borders. The threat is found in terrorists who use box cutters to hijack airplanes. And it is found in the spread of environmental destruction, endemic poverty, and epidemic disease. After all, how can Africa and other countries torn apart by AIDS be expected to successfully resist the call to violence, terror, and even trade in weapons of mass destruction.

It is time to treat AIDS in Africa for what it is—not just a new evil empire of disease and suffering—but a profound threat to the security of America and the world.

It has taken too much time. Step by step in Congress, we have moved to dramatically expand the response to this global crisis to increase funding for our bilateral programs and for the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria.
I welcome President Bush's decision to commit $15 billion to combating AIDS over the next 5 years. It is important that we keep that commitment and ensure that the first installment of $3 billion is appropriated for the next year and the remainder in the years to come.

But the pandemic of AIDS, which transcends borders, which is all too easily transmitted across both the villages of Africa and the global village, calls for more than a bilateral response. It requires an all out commitment of conscience and resources to multilateral efforts and, in particular, to the Global Fund. The Global Fund is critically important because of its capacity to attack AIDS both in those countries where it is rampant and in countries such as India where epidemic threatens to spread.

The Fund represents a shared international determination to wage a peaceful world war on AIDS, bringing prevention and treatment to all in need wherever they are. To succeed, the Fund depends on substantial and sustained support from governments and the private sector as well.

Today, the next round of proposals is largely unfunded, and future rounds cannot even be scheduled because pledges cannot even be found.

So the truth is, we must do much better than the President's proposed $200 million a year for the Fund. It is something, but not enough. It is a start, but it does not come close to the $1 billion we passed in last year's Senate bill. I was proud to work with Senator Frist on that legislation to raise America's contribution to the Fund. We must reach that level now, and then press on to even more—not only because America is a generous nation, but because what we do for others on this issue is also the deepest practical wisdom for ourselves.

There is no one way to conquer AIDS. No one country will vanquish it single handedly. It is a conflict where all the world must be on the same side.

And those of you in the business community, who have seen first hand the devastation wrought by AIDS, have already
contributed and can contribute even more to our war against this deadly disease.

Waging and winning it will demand the honesty and integrity to drive our programs by what's effective on the ground—not
by ideologies which defeat the strategies that work. The endangered people of Africa and so much of the world cannot afford to see the United States distracted by ideological debates over abstinence versus safe sex. The pandemic of AIDS must not be worsened by a plague of self righteousness. People are sick now; they are dying now—and the truest morality is to save them.

We can confront this killer and we can overcome it. The great power and wealth of nations, the great breakthrough in science and communications, so often deployed to sow enmity and take lives, must now be invoked in the ceaseless global alliance to give millions who would otherwise lose the gift of life. We can help them; we can help a continent; we can offer millions the hope not only of having a future, but of building a better one. We must do it because that is how, in the end, we keep faith with American values and our own humanity.

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