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First Lady Laura Bush on African AIDS Mission


U.S. first lady Laura Bush greets a singing participants and HIV-positive mothers of "Mothers to Mothers-to-Be", a program that helps to prevent more babies from being born with AIDS, in Khayelitsha, near Cape Town, South Africa, Tuesday, July 12, 2005
First Lady Laura Bush has visited projects for women with AIDS in South Africa. Mrs Bush will also visit Tanzania and Rwanda.

Mrs. Bush thanked a group of HIV-positive women for their role in combating the stigma associated with the disease. The First Lady spent time with HIV-positive pregnant women at a clinic in Khayelitsha, near Cape Town, to hear how they cope and what support they still need.

But they also told Mrs. Bush how their own, and other's, lives have changed for the better since they were tested and treated for the disease.

They met Mrs. Bush at the U.S.-assisted Mothers to Mothers-to-Be program where HIV-positive mothers who prevented transmission to their babies, mentor those still to deliver. Nearly 30 percent of the 400 women who deliver at the facility each month are HIV-positive, but now only five-percent of the babies born there acquire the disease.

Mrs. Bush is on a three-country African trip to focus attention on the role of the United States in AIDS prevention and treatment programs. In particular Mrs. Bush hopes to draw attention to President Bush's five-year $15 billion initiative to combat the disease in Africa and elsewhere and those programs which benefit from it.

Mrs. Bush also went to a weaving project run in support of the unemployed mothers. Among the items they weave with bright thread and beads are lanyards, some of which are purchased by the White House for staff security passes. The women welcomed Mrs. Bush in the traditional way with an isiXhosa song of thanks and praise.

A small group of Iraq war protesters from the Treatment Action Campaign, an AIDS activist group, carried posters saying that the real enemy is AIDS, not terrorism and urging the United States to invest in health and not war.

South Africa has the highest incidence of AIDS, with new figures released by the Health Department this week showing more than six million people infected, with women bearing the greatest burden of the pandemic.

From Cape Town, Mrs. Bush travels to Tanzania and Rwanda.

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