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AIDS is 'Deadliest Enemy Africa's Ever Faced,' says Bush - 2003-07-10

President Bush says AIDS is the deadliest enemy Africa has ever faced. Mr. Bush is in Botswana, the third stop of his five-nation Africa tour.

Much of the president's trip to Africa is designed to highlight his $15 billion program to fight the spread of AIDS.

In Botswana, nearly 40 percent of the adult population is HIV positive, giving it one of the highest infection rates in the world.

In a meeting with Botswana's President Festus Mogae, Mr. Bush said the country is taking "bold steps" to overcome the crisis and can count on the continued support of the United States.

"The people of this nation have the courage and the resolve to defeat this disease, and you have a partner in the United States of America," he said.

AIDS has cut life expectancy in Botswana from 67 years to 47 years with HIV prevalence highest among pregnant women, more than 36 percent of whom are infected.

Mr. Bush says Americans care deeply about the AIDS pandemic sweeping Africa and his new initiative to fight the disease shows that the United States is not only a powerful nation but also a compassionate one.

"My country is acting to help all of Africa in turning the tide against AIDS," he said. "This is the deadliest enemy Africa has ever faced, and you will not face this enemy alone. Together, our two nations are determined to build an Africa that is growing in peace, in prosperity, and in hope."

In Botswana, a public-private partnership has established Africa's first comprehensive AIDS prevention and treatment program, joining the government with the pharmaceutical firm Merck and the computer software magnate Bill Gates.

First Lady Laura Bush visited an AIDS clinic, run by an American medical school, where she met with HIV-positive children who receive free AIDS drugs donated by a U.S. drug company.

Accompanied by her daughter, Barbara, Mrs. Bush said there is hope for children around the world who suffer from AIDS.

Money for the president's $15 billion, five-year plan to fight the disease in Africa and the Caribbean has not yet been approved by Congress, and many legislators expect the final figure to be lower that the president's request.