The United States will provide more money to a global fund to fight AIDS and will continue to lead the world in financing AIDS research, Secretary of State Colin Powell told a U.N. conference Monday drafting a blueprint to combat the killer disease.

Decrying that it had taken 20 years to gather the world's nations to address what has become a global scourge, Powell declared: "From this moment on, our response to AIDS must be no less comprehensive, no less relentless, and no less swift than the pandemic itself."

U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan has called for a warchest of $7 billion to $10 billion annually to halt and start reversing the AIDS epidemic, which has killed more than 22 million people and left over 36 million facing a death sentence, the vast majority in Africa. Last month, President Bush announced that the United States will give $200 million in "seed money" to a global fund being established to fight the HIV/AIDS epidemic.

"We hope this seed money will generate billions more from donors all over the world, and more will come from the United States as we learn where our support can be most effective," Powell told delegates from over 180 nations.

Beyond the global fund, he said, the United States has been and will remain the largest bilateral donor in the fight against AIDS, providing 50 percent of all international funding.

"To date, the United States has dedicated over $1.6 billion to combat AIDS in developing world. President Bush's budget for the next fiscal year seeks $480 million, more than double the fiscal year 2000 amount," Powell said.

Bush is also requesting more than $3.4 billion for AIDS research, he said.

"The United States, I pledge today, will continue to lead the world in funding vital research," Powell said.

While calling the three-day U.N. session a "historic moment in the history of the United Nations," Powell lamented that "to date, our global response has been woefully inadequate."

"We have been blind to the fact that this promising new century has arrived in the time of plague," he said.

Powell called on all public officials to make AIDS a top priority.

"Our enemy is the HIV virus, not its victims," he declared, urging all people to treat those afflicted with "compassion, not ostracism."

But the secretary of state said the epidemic will not end without a real global campaign aimed at prevention.

"Unless a strong emphasis is put on prevention, prevention and more prevention, this pandemic will continue to rage out of control," Powell said.