24 June 2002

Powell Says Partnerships Needed to Stem AIDS Epidemic, June 24, 2002

(Calls disease a destroyer of societies and nations)

U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell said stemming the HIV/AIDS epidemic, which he called one of the deadliest enemies the world has ever seen, will require partnerships between the public and private sectors, institutions and individuals, businesses and labor -- all working together.

Speaking June 24 at the State Department Open Forum Conference, Powell said HIV/AIDS is a security issue because of its potential to destabilize regions, perhaps even entire continents. "It can tear social fabric apart within any nation ... leaving nations without the human resources to grow and develop, ultimately sapping global well-being," he said.

Powell said that President Bush has made stemming AIDS a top priority of his administration, emphasizing that the United States was the first nation to pledge support to the public-private Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria -- its $500-million pledge making it the largest single donor to the fund.

Powell added that fighting AIDS requires leadership and partnerships that extend beyond governments -- partnerships that include labor, businesses, foundations and individuals working together. For example, he said the workplace is an ideal delivery point for HIV/AIDS prevention and care, and that businesses can lend their infrastructure, public relations network and distribution systems to help raise AIDS awareness and distribute vital information.

He called on business leaders to develop AIDS policies suitable for the countries in which their companies operate, and to encourage their counterparts in other companies to do the same.

Powell said there is also much that American labor can do at home and through its extensive ties to workers in other countries. For example, he said, peer counseling, which has proven effective as a means of reaching people and changing their behaviors, can take place in a labor hall, in a factory or in an office. "Collective bargaining doesn't work against an epidemic," Powell said. "What does is working collectively with management, government and other key elements of society."

Following is the transcript of Powell's remarks:
(begin transcript)

U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE
Office of the Spokesman

Secretary Of State Colin L. Powell At Open Forum Conference on The Role of Public-Private Partnerships in the Global Fight Against HIV/AIDS
June 24, 2002

Loy Henderson Auditorium

SECRETARY POWELL: Thank you very much, Paula, and let me take this opportunity in front of this audience to thank you for the leadership role that you have been playing within the Department and within the interagency process and throughout the international community in highlighting the problems associated with HIV/AIDS.

And Alan, let me thank you for the leadership that you have been giving to the Open Forum over these years. This is a remarkable forum that we hold on a regular basis in order to bring in people into the Department to help educate us and to share with these other ideas, especially new ideas on the various issues of the day.

And no issue of the day could be more important than the one that we are dealing with today. And, Drew, please do take full credit for having come up with the idea some time ago, and we are pleased now that it has come to fruition today.

I also want to thank my colleague Don Evans for being here, as well as Scott, for also being in attendance. I regret that Secretary of Health and Human Services Tommy Thompson and Secretary of Labor Elaine Chao, who are also actively involved as leaders within the administration in dealing with this problem, are unable to be with us this morning but expressed their regrets as well as their greetings.

And a special thanks to all of you who would take time from your schedules, your various activities, to be with us today and to work together to share ideas and see what we can do to put public-private partnerships together in a more effective way so that we can go after this enemy; we can do a better job of leading this global fight against HIV/AIDS.

At the beginning of this century, you may recall just 18 months ago when we were going through the excitement of a new millennium and we saw all kinds of promise in this new millennium. We saw the possibility of the spread of political and economic freedom. We saw that democracy, with each passing day, was seen in more and more parts of the world as the way forward. And even though there was trouble in the world, and we see that trouble on our television sets today, nonetheless at the beginning of the new century we saw opportunities for peace, we saw opportunities for freedom, and those opportunities are still there. We saw breakthroughs in technology, which perhaps might even allow us to envision a day in this century when most of humanity will be freed from tyranny and poverty.

So it is a century of promise, even with all of the problems that we face on a day-to-day basis. There are great opportunities out here, yet all of these opportunities, these promising trends which America has done so much to advance, these trends for a better century can be reversed because of this one thing, this one problem, this one crisis in the face of the earth: HIV/AIDS.

AIDS is not just a compelling moral issue, it is not just a humanitarian issue; it is far more than just a health issue. It is a security issue. It is a destroyer of nations. It is a destroyer of societies. It has the potential to destabilize regions, perhaps even entire continents. It can tear social fabric apart within any nation. It can rob young democracies of the citizens they need to build freer, better futures for themselves and for their children. HIV/AIDS is an economic issue, leaving nations without the human resources to grow and develop, ultimately sapping global well-being.

This audience is sophisticated with respect to this crisis. You know the numbers, but they bear repeating nonetheless, that 5 million people are infected each year. That's 14,000 new infections a day, and nearly 50 percent of the infected are women, the backbone of families in so many developing nations of the world, and in turn they are the backbone of economies, developing economies in so many developing nations of the world.

Life expectancy has dropped below 40 in some sub-Saharan countries. Less than 40 years of age life expectancy in the 21st century, at a time when just a few years ago, these same countries might have been looking at 50 or 55 years, going the other way because of this one, one disease, this one pandemic. People are dying in what should be the prime of their lives, their most productive years. It is not a disease that goes after the old; it can infect the young, but it devastates those who are in the prime of their years, the prime of their lives.

Markets literally are dying off. Surely AIDS has dealt blows to business and investment in so many developing countries, and business and investment are crucial to lifting nations out of poverty, to lifting people out of poverty and destitution and to putting those nations on the path of sustainable development.

AIDS is destroying work forces; productivity declines and absenteeism that increase when workers need to take time off for their own medical needs or to take care of family members who are ill who have no one else to take care of them. When people are not in the workplace, they are either consumed with the disease or taking care of those who are.

We hear terrible stories about companies in some parts of sub-Saharan Africa, and we focus on sub-Saharan Africa, but it's a problem in the Caribbean, it's a problem in other parts of the world. There is no nation that is immune from this pandemic, this crisis. And we hear stories from sub-Saharan Africa, however, that some companies have to train three workers to be sure that at least one of them will remain healthy and have some longevity in that company in that workplace.

There are 12 million AIDS orphans in the world, and 40 million projected by the year 2010. Lost children. Children without caregivers. Children with what hope for the future? No hope for the future. Children who will not be educated, who will not acquire skills that will make them contributing members of society. And even if they stay healthy, they are losing their teachers. In the Central African Republic in Cote d'Ivoire, 70 percent of the deaths that occur among teachers linked to AIDS -- teachers in the prime of their life, when they should be educating youngsters and passing on enthusiasm and energy and education and a belief in the future. The teachers themselves are dying.

In the decades ahead, with this kind of loss, where will the skilled workers come from? Where will the educated people come from to run those countries, to run those societies? This is why President Bush focused on this particular subject last week when he announced that over the next five years the United States would double to $200 million our funding for education and teacher training in Africa. As the President said, education is the foundation of development and democracy in every culture on every continent.

I visited Africa last year with my wife Alma, and we traveled through a number of countries where we have seen the impact, we have seen the impact of this disease, and there was nothing sadder than to see it up close and personal, and to see families where the active generation, the working generation, has been devastated. And you have grandparents and you have the grandchildren, but the parents themselves are being devastated by the disease. And so you have grandparents with little or no income trying to raise and take care of children, and the grandparents will not be there when the children that do survive slowly come up in age and are looking even more for the kind of support they will need from the family. Families being ripped apart by this disease.

We must do all we can now to ensure rising generations in developing countries have the skills and the good health to provide for themselves and their families and to contribute to the future prosperity of their countries.

In every way imaginable then, the AIDS pandemic threatens lives and livelihoods, governments and businesses, hard-won achievements of the past and cherished hopes for the future. The world's response to this crisis must be no less comprehensive and no less relentless than the AIDS pandemic itself.

President Bush has made stemming AIDS a top priority for his administration. Through the President's Task Force on HIV/AIDS, Commerce Secretary Evans, Heath and Human Services' Tommy Thompson, Labor Secretary Chao and I, and our other colleagues in the cabinet are working closely to coordinate efforts for the domestic and international fronts of this global war.

The American people, I believe, can be proud that the United States was the first nation to pledge support to the Public-Private Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria. We continue to be the largest single donor to the Fund, and our $500 million pledge has attracted $1.4 billion more from other nations to date, including key contributions from private organizations, corporations and foundations and the like.

It's just a beginning. We really do have to grow that Fund, double and triple it, and the United States is committed to do everything we can, not only in the form of our own contribution, but in the form of encouraging others in both the public and the private sectors to make additional contributions.

The United States is also the largest contributor to bilateral programs against AIDS worldwide. And just last week, President Bush announced a new $500 million initiative to stem the transmission of HIV from mother to child, something that we know how to do, something that is not that difficult, something that it would literally be criminal if we didn't invest in and help those nations with the willingness to do so and with the leadership to make it happen, to make this happen in order to break that link in the chain from mother to child.

This effort will be aimed at prevention and treatment programs in Africa, the Caribbean, areas of the world where infection rates are the highest. The challenge of this global magnitude, however, requires leadership and partnership that extends beyond governments. It also requires leadership and partnership between the public and private sectors, between institutions and individuals, between business and labor. We all must work together.

And so today's Open Forum affords an opportunity, an important opportunity for all communities represented here to exchange experiences, insights and ideas about what can be done, individually and collectively. Organizations are here, such as the Global Business Coalition on AIDS, the Corporate Council of Africa, the International Organization of Employers, and the World Economic Forum. All of them are already helping companies share best practices.

And shortly you will hear from Don Evans and from business leaders about wonderful efforts that individual companies are making, companies which truly are on the front lines of the AIDS war. If you haven't done so already, I strongly encourage the CEOs that are here today to develop AIDS policies suitable for the countries in which your companies operate. I also ask you to encourage your counterparts in other companies to do the same. Through your different business associations, make sure that you take this AIDS message back, not only to your company, but to all the companies within your sector, within your business association, because we need to leverage meetings like this and touch many more people than just those who are present today.

Business leaders can also act as force multipliers, as we like to say in the military, by reaching to opinion leaders in government and throughout the countries, the societies in which you are working, in which you have a business presence. Working together -- in that way, you can break the silence and remove the stigma from those who are infected. The workplace is an ideal delivery point for HIV/AIDS prevention and care. Businesses can lend their infrastructure, their public relations network, their distribution systems, to help raise AIDS awareness and to distribute vital information. Companies can provide AIDS prevention education in the workplace. Why not make it a mandatory part of your education program for employees in those countries?

Many companies routinely do strategic planning, scenario planning. Maybe you should consider sharing some of your assessments, what you've learned about dealing with this disease in the workplace, and what you've learned about educating your employees in these places. Why don't you share that information with governments, especially our own government here, so that we can all do a better job of understanding the impact of AIDS around the world? And hopefully that's one of the outcomes that will come out of this conference.

Corporate leaders can see to it that their managers implement fair employment practices to ensure there is no discrimination related to a person's HIV status -- no stigmatization. They are just like anyone else. This is one of those lessons we have to get to all employers and nations around the world, that they must not stigmatize people who are ill. They need our help, they need our compassion, they need to be given the opportunity to be contributing members of society. And we would expect businesses to institute care and support programs for their employees and for their families.

There is also much that American labor can do at home and through its extensive ties to workers in other countries. Many American unions are already involved, such as the American Federation of Teachers. Labor, too, has useful structures -- union halls, union organizations, locals. All of these organizations and structures can be used as part of this great crusade. Peer counseling has proven effective as a means of reaching people and changing their behaviors. Because peer counseling can take place in a labor hall, it can take place in a factory, it can take place in an office. Collective bargaining doesn't work against an epidemic. What does is working collectively with management, government and other key elements of society.

This is a crusade that must be won. This is a challenge that must be faced. This is something that each and every one of us must get involved in, in our own way and in a business way. Not only in our own lives, not only in talking to others about it, but if we are in government -- it makes no difference what cabinet department you might be in, you have a role to play. If you're a business leader making a profit in a country, it's important for you to give back to that country by helping in this crusade, which might destroy that country, but more importantly, your business opportunity in that country.

Foundations have a particularly unique role to play, because foundations contribute more than just money. They are contributing their long experience in evaluating proposals and working with grantees. They also bring expertise in the health field. We all know of the work of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. There are many other foundations represented here. This particular one is showing us whole new ways of working, including through partnerships with pharmaceutical companies and governments to provide antiretroviral medicines.

Another fine example is the Kaiser Foundation, whose HIV/AIDS work focuses on South Africa. As I speak, eight foundations are working together on a pilot program to reduce mother-to-child transmission of the AIDS virus. For decades, American government, business and labor have pooled strengths to extend economic and political freedom around the globe. Together we have helped to open unprecedented opportunities for prosperity, democracy and peace.

And now we have to do it again, to deal with another enemy, a new enemy, an enemy that is as deadly as any enemy the world has seen, frankly, in all of recorded history. I want to say to this group here today that you can be sure that under President Bush's leadership, this government will commit all of its resources, all of its energy, all of its leadership ability, to playing its part.

But it goes beyond just what the government can do; it goes into what labor can do, business can do, the foundation world can do, what each and every one of us can do in our own lives at home, knowing others who have suffered from this disease, but who are part of our community or our family, certainly part of our human family. We all have a role to play. And I thank you so much for giving us this opportunity to gather you together and talk about the roles that each and every one of you and your organizations can play.

Thank you very much.

(Applause.)

(end transcript)