Secretary of State Colin Powell, at a State Department event Tuesday marking World AIDS Day, urged government leaders around the world to speak frankly about the disease and to avoid stigmatizing those infected.
Mr. Powell says countries which are having the most success against the AIDS pandemic are the ones whose leaders have been the most forthcoming about the disease, and in making sure that lifesaving information reaches all of their people.
At a reception for the Washington diplomatic corps marking World AIDS Day, which was observed globally on Sunday, the Secretary of State said there should be "no taboos or sensitivities" in confronting the crisis, and that consigning the disease to silence means condemning more and more people to their deaths.
He also said that leadership on the AIDS crisis means not marginalizing those in society who have the disease or carry the HIV virus.
"All of us have a responsibility to send the message that the virus is the enemy, not the men, not the women, and above all not the innocent children who contract it," he said. "We have the responsibility to send the message that people living with AIDS should not be treated with cruelty and discrimination, but with dignity and compassion."
The secretary of state cited Brazil, Cambodia and Uganda as countries where "enlightened" policies on AIDS by national leaders have helped reduce the impact of the deadly disease. He said Cambodia has been able to stabilize its AIDS infection rate through education about risky behavior, while Brazilian programs have kept the infection rate there far below projections.
He credited Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni with making the aids fight a government-wide.
"In Uganda, President Museveni has made it a point to speak out about AIDS at every opportunity, and he has made all of his ministers, not just his health minister, responsible and accountable for results," he said. "The Ugandan government nourished grass roots efforts and those efforts are flourishing. The infection rate in Uganda has fallen by 50 percent since 1992."
Mr. Powell said President Bush is committed to continuing the United States' status as the world's single largest contributor to international AIDS programs, including the United Nations Global Fund to Fight AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria. Diplomats from almost 90 countries attended the State Department event.