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Bush Touts AIDS Initiative During Uganda Visit - 2003-07-12


U.S. President George W. Bush was in Uganda Friday where he met with volunteers working at Africa's largest indigenous AIDS service organization. The brief stop on the president's tour of Africa was meant to highlight his $15 billion program to combat the disease.

President Bush says AIDS is the deadliest enemy Africa has ever faced. But the continent is not alone in the fight as he says America has decided to act.

"I believe God has called us into action. I believe we have a responsibility," he stressed. "My country has got a responsibility. We are a great nation. We are a wealthy nation. We have a responsibility to help a neighbor in need, a brother and sister in crisis."

The president's five-year, $15 billion program to fight AIDS in Africa and the Caribbean is based on encouraging abstinence, fidelity, and the use of contraception.

Accompanied by Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni, President Bush toured a facility in the town of Entebbe that provides counseling and basic medical services to more than 30,000 people a year across Uganda.

He praised the work of the center for speaking the truth about AIDS because he says the virus does its worst harm in an atmosphere of secrecy and unreasoned fear.

"Men and women sometimes come to his place with terrible fears and a broken spirit," said Mr. Bush. "You receive them with kindness, you help them gain skills, you care for their families, you encourage them to go forward with life."

Thirty million Africans are HIV positive including some three million children, yet only one percent of the people needing immediate drug treatment receive proper medicine.

The president's plan is meant to improve those figures by boosting the flow of anti-retroviral drugs and funding abstinence education classes in churches and schools.

Mr. Bush praised President Museveni for lowering Uganda's infection rate to just five percent, saying it is an example for a continent fighting the killer disease.

"Men and women are gaining years of life," he said. "More Ugandan children are growing up with mothers and fathers. And this country is reclaiming its future. Life by life, village by village, Uganda is showing that AIDS can be defeated across Africa."

Funding for the president's AIDS program has not yet been approve by Congress, and many legislators expect the final figure to be lower that the president's 15-billion request.

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