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Bush plan calls for US$15 billion for world AIDS fight

Wednesday, Feb 25, 2004,Page 6

US President George W. Bush unveiled a detailed five-year, US$15 billion emergency plan aimed at turning the tide in the global fight against the HIV/AIDS pandemic.

The plan, which Bush first announced during last year's State of the Union address, describes itself as "the boldest international health initiative ever undertaken by a single country."

But critics said they were disappointed and described the plan's funding process as marked by continuous delays.

The plan targets US$9 billion in new funding to speed up prevention, treatment and care in 14 of the most affected countries representing at least 50 percent of the world's HIV infections.

All but two of the countries -- Haiti and Guyana -- are in sub-Sahara Africa. One more country, outside Africa and the Caribbean, is to be named later.

The plan also devotes US$5 billion over five years to bilateral programs in more than 100 countries and increases the US pledge to the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria by US$1 billion over five years.

Introducing the plan that was sent to Congress, Secretary of State Colin Powell said that it demonstrated "bold US leadership in the fight against HIV/AIDS, but much more needs to be done."

With the release of first funds for the program -- US$350 million -- Health and Human Services Secretary Tommy Thompson said the US government "will provide unprecedented resources" to combat HIV/AIDS. But he said the pandemic was "too big for any one country and others must get involved."

Worldwide, more than 40 million people are infected with HIV/AIDS and each day 14,000 are added to their ranks. An estimated 8,000 people a day die from the disease.

Randall Tobias, US global AIDS coordinator, said US strategy is built on four cornerstones:

-- Rapidly expanding services by building on existing successful programs.

-- Identifying new partners and "building capacity for sustainable, effective and widespread HIV/AIDS responses."

-- Encouraging bold leadership and fostering a sound enabling policy for combating HIV/AIDS.

-- Implementing strong strategic information systems that will coordinate what works best in fighting the disease.


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