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AIDS Advocates Call for More US Funding


International relief organizations are urging President Bush to increase the amount of funding for a special AIDS program that has provided relief to millions of people in developing countries, especially in Africa. VOA's Jessica Berman reports.

In his State of the Union address on Monday night, President Bush urged Congress to reauthorize a key U.S. AIDS program for another five years and double the price tag to $30 billion.

Since it was first approved by Congress in 2003, the President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief has provided antiviral drugs to 1.4 million HIV-infected people in 15 countries who would not have been treated otherwise.

The program also provides money to treat individuals with malaria and tuberculosis.

International aid workers have praised the program but they say more money is needed. John Bradshaw, a policy director for the health advocacy group called Physicians for Human Rights, says the U.S. Congress has been putting additional money in the program over the past five years, so it is already being funded the at the $30 billion President Bush called for on Monday.

"It's just a flat number," he said. "The number of AIDS cases and the need for treatment, care [and] prevention is going up continually. And if we have this funding, we [will] fall further and further behind."

The human rights organization is calling on Congress to approve $59 billion for the program.

Bradshaw says the additional money could be used to help the most vulnerable AIDS population - women.

Bradshaw says there isn't enough money now to help women implement the cornerstone of President George Bush AIDS program, a prevention strategy known as the ABC's for "abstinence, being faithful and condom use."

"Women are not able to control their ability to follow the ABC program because they don't have the power to control their own sexual lives within a relationship," he said.

A bill to reauthorization the President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief is currently being drafted by U.S. lawmakers.

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