of US Health and Human Services Secretary Tommy G. Thompson to the World
Plenary Session: May 19, 2003
Mr. President, Madam
Director-General and distinguished delegates:
I am honored to
represent the United States of America at this assembly and to reaffirm,
on behalf of President George W. Bush, my country's strong commitment to
All of you here
represent the very best of what public service can mean and do. I am
honored to be in your presence as your partner. America recognizes that in
this era of rapid travel and a global economy, public health doesn't
recognize national borders. This is one of the stark lessons of health
threats like AIDS and SARS.
The world community has
joined together in so many ways to advance the cause of health and
wellness for all people in all nations. One of the most visible has been
the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control. The global dialogue begun
through the FCTC negotiations has been a significant step for public
It is no exaggeration to
state that my country is a world leader in anti-smoking efforts. We have
committed more resources than any other nation to research, development
and evaluation of smoking control programs both at home and abroad. And we
are looking forward to the coming discussion on the FCTC as a continuation
of those efforts.
Among our collective
efforts, the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria stands
out as a shining example of what can be accomplished with a common purpose
and a common vision. It is my privilege to serve as the 2003 chair of the
Global Fund. And it is my privilege to report that the United States is
the largest supporter of the fund, with $1.6 billion in pledges to date
far more than any other nation.
But our work on the
Global Fund has only begun. Its promise is great -- but it is a promise
that will not be realized without sufficient resources to execute its
mission. I'm sorry to report that that the fund faces a shortfall of over
a billion dollars for this round of proposals. That's something we cannot
allow to happen again. The utility and credibility of the fund depend upon
it. As the chair of the fund I will not falter in my own efforts to carry
this message throughout the world. Tomorrow I travel to Brussels to
address the European Parliament's Committee on Development and Cooperation
and will share this message with them.
This is a fight we must
America recognizes that
among the threats to global health, HIV/AIDS stands out as one of the most
intractable, and most dire. I want to tell you now that the administration
of President Bush is doing its part to win this fight. Earlier this year,
the president announced, and just last week the U.S. congress approved,
the emergency plan for AIDS relief a five-year, $15 billion initiative to
turn the tide in combating the global HIV/AIDS pandemic. This commitment
of resources will help 14 countries in Africa and two in the Caribbean --
where 70 percent of those infected with HIV live. It will help us wage and
win the war against HIV/AIDS. No American administration has ever invested
more to combat this deadly disease.
Let me also address one
emerging threat that is of increasing concern to us all Severe Acute
Respiratory Syndrome, or SARS. We're doing everything we can to help
contain SARS rendering needed assistance to nations with severe outbreaks
... and working closely with WHO and other partners as part of a truly
global collaboration. We have committed dozens of infectious disease
experts to work on the SARS response around the world ... and we have
conducted extensive laboratory testing to help identify the cause of the
disease. And I'm pleased to announce that on May 7th, the U.S. government
provided assistance to help China bolster its strained public health
system including $500,000 in emergency funds and a long-term commitment to
public health training between my department and the ministry of health.
That's a lot, but it's
only the beginning. The need for effective public health exists
among all peoples. That's why the United States has strongly supported
Taiwan's inclusion in efforts against SARS and beyond. If we are truly
serious about stopping this disease in its tracks, then we cannot ignore
millions of people who are at risk. One lesson of SARS is that public
health knows no borders and no politics.
Another lesson of SARS
is that early action is decisive action. The ill effects of delay in the
identification and acknowledgement of SARS are self-evident and cannot be
repeated. That's why the United States is launching a multi-million dollar
early warning global health initiative focused on strategic areas outside
the United States. This program will train laboratorians and
epidemiologists ... improve management and surveillance ... foster
communications ... and improve laboratory capabilities.
We also want to provide
more public health experts from my department to assist with training,
mentoring, and technology transfer so we can fill gaps in expertise where
they exist. This will facilitate more timely and effective detection and
response to biological threats, specifically class A agents and influenza,
and truly make a difference in the security of all peoples.
As part of this
initiative, we will complement and augment the critical global efforts of
WHO's global outbreak alert and response network. We want to provide
resources to extend response capabilities to more regional levels. Our
goal is to build upon pre-existing programs in countries that can show the
swiftest progress most quickly, for the benefit of the entire region.
If preparation is
half the battle, then I'm proud to say that the battle is halfway won. I
look forward to working with you to enhance and support these efforts for
the good of all people in all nations.
Over the past year,
I have been gratified as many of you have reached out to me in friendship
to help me better understand the concerns important to all of us.
In particular, I want to
thank one outstanding WHO leader. Dr. Gro Brundtland, the United States
applauds your strong leadership and your vision for the future. You have
placed health squarely in the global policy dialogue in a way that few
could have foreseen just a few years ago. It has been my privilege and
pleasure to work with you ... and on behalf of the President, I wish you
every success in your future. Your legacy is a positive one, and I thank
you for that.
My friends, let us never
forget that our common agenda for health cuts across governments,
cultures, language and politics. We must continue to work in tandem for
the health, economic development and well-being of our people. We can
accomplish so much more by working together in partnership. I look forward
to working with all of you at this assembly.
Thank you very much.