During a reception on December's World AIDS Day, Secretary of State Colin Powell urged ambassadors from 86 nations to promote awareness and to make combating the disease a worldwide priority.
'In the global fight against AIDS every nation, large or small, developed or developing, must be a leader,' he said. 'I have made this a priority for every one of our ambassadors overseas,' he added. 'In the fight against AIDS, each of your countries will find a strong and willing partner in the United States of America.'
The Bush administration has pledged $1.3 billion this fiscal year for international AIDS efforts. The United Nations recently issued a report that the disease will kill 3.1 million people this year and, for the first time, half of the 39 million adults living with AIDS or the virus that causes it are women.
Powell said that the U.S. is the largest single contributor to the global fund to combat AIDS, pledging $500 million over the next two years. But the United Nations said that a 'full prevention package' of programs costing over $10 billion was needed within the next three years to stem the spread of the disease.
Thomas Hart, director of the Episcopal Church's Office for Government Relations in Washington, DC, said that the Bush administration should show more political leadership on combating AIDS. 'What this administration needs is a plan to address the pandemic globally and to provide the sort of political leadership they have been able to show on other issues,' he said.
Hart said that it is misleading for the administration to claim that the U.S. has donated more to the effort than other countries because it has so much more money to contribute. 'It's a little like me and Bill Gates walking by a homeless guy and I give $10 and he gives $20,' Hart said. Gates, the founder of Microsoft, has contributed hundreds of millions of dollars to AIDS efforts and recently pledged $100 million to prevention efforts in India.