- The Washington Times - Wednesday, April 30, 2003

President Bush yesterday urged Congress to quickly pass his $15 billion AIDS initiative, calling the disease "a tragedy for millions of men, women and children, and a threat to stability in entire countries and regions of our world."
The president's five-year plan, built on the successful Ugandan program known as ABC advising adults to practice abstinence, be faithful or use condoms would prevent an estimated 7 million new HIV infections and treat at least 2 million people in the next decade.
"Time is not on our side, so I ask Congress to move forward with the speed this crisis requires," Mr. Bush told a gathering in the White House East Room.
"Fighting AIDS on a global scale is a massive and complicated undertaking, but this cause is rooted in the simplest of moral duties: When we see this kind of preventable suffering, when we see a plague leaving graves and orphans across a continent, we must act."
More than 42 million people worldwide are infected with HIV, the virus that causes AIDS, and some 25 million people have died a number expected to rise to 80 million by 2010. Nearly 30 million AIDS sufferers are in Africa, according to the United Nations' AIDS agency, with several countries expected to lose up to a quarter of their populations by 2010.
In South Africa, for example, more than 6 million people have AIDS and its life-expectancy rate is projected to drop from an already-low 53 years to just 41 by 2010.
"In Botswana, nearly 40 percent of the adult population 40 percent has HIV," Mr. Bush said. In sub-Saharan Africa, more than two-thirds of the 8.6 million people ages 15-24 living with HIV-AIDS are female.
The president said the dramatic projections leave little choice on the action necessary.
"There are only two possible responses to suffering on this scale we can turn our eyes away in resignation and despair, or we can take decisive, historic action to turn the tide against this disease and give the hope of life to millions," he said. "The United States of America chooses the path of action and the path of hope."
Mr. Bush announced his new plan to curb AIDS in his State of the Union address. The House is expected to vote as early as tomorrow on the proposal, but the Senate likely will not take up the issue until late next month.
A House committee passed legislation earlier this month that reflects what Mr. Bush wants. That bill, sponsored by Rep. Henry J. Hyde, Illinois Republican, would set aside $15 billion over five years to expand AIDS treatment worldwide through low-cost drugs.
Of the $15 billion, Mr. Bush would channel $14 billion directly to other countries, with the other $1 billion going to the Swiss-based, public-private Global Fund to Combat AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria.
In his speech, Mr. Bush pointed to the Ugandan model, also endorsed in the Hyde bill, as the key to a successful approach to the HIV/AIDS epidemic. The ABC "stands for abstain, if you can't abstain, be faithful, and if you can't be faithful, use condoms," Bush spokesman Ari Fleischer said. "That is how Uganda has fought this with some success."

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