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US First Lady Donates AIDS Drugs in Nigeria

U.S. First Lady Laura Bush is in Nigeria where she has announced new assistance for efforts to help prevent the spread of AIDS and treat those already infected.

Mrs. Bush came to St. Mary's Catholic Hospital outside the capital, Abuja, to meet with health-care workers and HIV positive patients.

She announced $163 million in new funding to stop the spread of AIDS in a nation where more than five percent of the adult population is HIV positive and an estimated 300,000 people have already died from the disease.

Mrs. Bush also brought antiretroviral drugs to St. Mary's to help strengthen its efforts to prevent mother-to-child transmission.

Faith Uche has been HIV positive since 2003. But with St. Mary's help both of her children were born HIV negative. She told Mrs. Bush that she was scared when she first found out that she was infected, afraid that she might die the next day.

Instead, she and her husband, Sani, who is HIV negative, are part of a counseling group for couples facing the disease.

"We are in the support group. When we come here, they encourage us," she explained. " Actually, when you notice that you are positive, you always lose hope. But due to how they are taking care of us, encouraging us, we feel happy."

Mrs. Bush thanked Faith Uche for sharing her story and her husband for being a good example for Nigerian men.

"It's really important for people who are HIV positive to reach out, to let other people know they can be tested, they can find out, they can still live a life, a positive life and a happy life," she said. "That's the message we need to get out around the world, really, to everyone who might be HIV positive and to people who never will be HIV positive but need to know that people who are positive can live lives of contribution to their world and their society."

Mrs. Bush said preventing mother-to-child transmission is particularly important in combating the disease as it protects the next generation.

U.S. support for St. Mary's Hospital includes $500,000 for counseling, testing, antiretroviral therapy and home-based care.