For one night, the campaign against HIV trumped the buzz over Clinton's Senate re-election bid in New York, speculation over whether Rice would run for president, even gossip about Jolie's relationship with Brad Pitt.
The women were all speakers at a dinner of the Global Business Coalition on HIV-AIDS, helping raise $1.3 million. Volkswagen of South Africa, Getty Images, MAC Cosmetics, Bristol-Myers-Squibb, Virgin United and DeBeers were honored for their work against AIDS.
Jolie complained about the amount of money nations have committed to fight AIDS and the uneven treatment for AIDS sufferers in rich and poor countries.
"That we haven't come together in this world to treat this disease properly and equally is a disgrace," the actress said. "And we will never get it under control if we are selective" about who gets treatment.
Rice told the crowd at the Kennedy Center that the involvement of businesses along with government is crucial in fighting AIDS, which she said can threaten the stability of countries and entire regions.
The secretary of state praised the bipartisan cooperation in Congress in support of funding AIDS prevention and singled out Clinton's work, telling the New York senator, "It's a pleasure to share the podium with you."
Clinton is considered an early favorite in the Democratic presidential race for 2008 and some have speculated Rice might run as a Republican, though she has said she will not.
While the women went out of their way to praise each other, Clinton drew loud applause when she called on the Bush administration and Congress to recognize the importance of condoms in the fight against AIDS.
"There is a great deal of political pressure to only talk about abstinence, and to deny support for condoms and education on using them," Clinton, D-N.Y., said. "This policy will lead to the unnecessary deaths of many people."
She said girls and women were increasingly at risk, especially in the countries most affected. In this country, women — especially young women and minorities — have increasingly been infected with HIV and AIDS over the last two decades.
While the tone was serious Wednesday night, Clinton got one of the big laughs of the evening when she pondered the life of a glamorous movie star.
"It's hard being a beautiful celebrity," Clinton said. "I wouldn't know, but I've got to imagine it has to be very difficult."
By Will Lester