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US Mayors Pledge City to City Partnership in Ugandan Fight Against AIDS - 2003-09-09

A group of American mayors is pledging to form a partnership between their cities and cities in Uganda in the fight against AIDS. The U.S. mayor's two-day Ugandan visit is part of the largest overseas mission ever undertaken by the U.S. Conference of Mayors, a nonpartisan organization of nearly 1,200 major cities in the United States. Ugandan officials say a delegation of three U.S. mayors inspected several AIDS-related projects and sites in the Ugandan capital, Kampala, and in the neighboring city, Jinja.

By linking U.S. mayors with their African counterparts, Kampala Mayor John Kizito says the visit was the first step in developing close city-to-city cooperation in the continent's ongoing battle to contain the spread of the deadly disease.

He says the idea is for the mayors to share their experiences and to find a long-term solution to the problem.

"Fighting AIDS involves the exchange of information. It also involves assisting each other financially," he said. "So, we hope that we shall be exchanging information between ourselves and them, and also we may expect some assistance from them, drugs for the infected, some materials for those orphaned and so on."

The American mayors in the delegation came from cities in the southern states of Georgia and Tennessee and the northern state of Minnesota.

They say they went to Uganda to assess first-hand the impact of AIDS and HIV, the virus that causes the disease, on local communities. They also wanted to see how the mayors of those communities have been responding to the AIDS epidemic and to identify areas where community leaders may need additional resources.

The three mayors form one group of the U.S. Conference of Mayors' mission to Africa. More than half a dozen other mayors have been dispatched to Africa in recent weeks on similar missions in AIDS-ravaged countries.

The first mission took place late last month in South Africa. Other delegations have visited neighboring Swaziland and Namibia.

But Uganda, in East Africa, has been getting special attention because President Bush has called the country a model for his five-year, $15 billion AIDS initiative on the continent. During his visit to the country in July, Mr. Bush praised Ugandan leaders for their aggressive, decade-long AIDS public education campaign, which has dramatically cut infection rates among the general population.

In the early 1990s, HIV infection rates in some urban cities was as high as 30 percent. Now, six percent of the population in Uganda is HIV positive.