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Bush Renews Nation's Commitment to Fight AIDS

President Bush says the United States has a challenge and a responsibility to battle AIDS at home and abroad. On World AIDS Day Mr. Bush reaffirmed America's commitment to fight the disease.

The president says the United States is making a big difference in the global fight against AIDS, and will continue to stand with those in need.

"I believe America has a unique ability, and a special calling, to fight this disease," he said. "We are blessed with great scientific knowledge. We are a generous country that has always reached out to feed the hungry, and rescue captives, and care for the sick."

At an AIDS Day event at the White House, Mr. Bush spoke of the toll the disease has already taken in the world's poorest countries. About 90 percent of the 40 million people infected with the AIDS virus live in the developing world, and the president said they face the greatest challenge.

He spoke of the courage and determination these nations have shown, making special mention of Uganda, Botswana, Kenya and Namibia.

"These countries, and many others, are fighting for the lives of their citizens - and America is now their strongest partner in that fight, and we're proud to be so," Mr. Bush said.

The president noted the United States is helping in two ways: through contributions to the Global Fund to fight AIDS, and through his Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief.

The goal of the plan is to provide $15 billion over five years to support AIDS prevention, treatment and care programs in 15 of the hardest-hit countries. He said in its first two years of work abroad, it has shown strong results.

"Before the Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief, only 50,000 people of the more than four million people in sub-Saharan Africa needing immediate AIDS treatment were getting medicine - think about that, only 50,000 people," he stressed. "After two years of sustained effort, approximately 400,000 sub-Saharan Africans are receiving the treatment they need."

Mr. Bush promised an increased effort in the future to direct funds to community-run programs and those organized by churches and other religious institutions. He said the goal is to save more lives.

"We are making good progress, and none of it would be possible without the devotion and professionalism of our partners on the ground: courageous leaders of African nations who care about their people and who tell the truth;" he noted, "doctors and pharmacists who work without rest in overcrowded wards; health workers, often with HIV themselves, who visit homes and make sure people are taking their medicine; people who run youth groups and clubs that encourage abstinence and help children with HIV face the challenges of life."

The president shared the stage with four special guests who had come a long way for the occasion: a woman and her children from South Africa infected with the AIDS virus and a doctor from their local clinic. President Bush called them a strong example of courage.