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Bush Seeks Increased Funding for International AIDS Relief


The Bush administration is asking Congress for a 25 percent increase in funding for its emergency global HIV/AIDS program for 2007. The State Department says the number of people it is helping reached 42 million last year, although critics say not enough is being done.

The State Department has released its second annual report on the president's AIDS relief plan, saying U.S. leadership is making a tremendous difference in the fight against the disease.

It shows that the government is asking Congress to allocate $4 billion on the program next year, up from $3.2 billion this year. President Bush launched the plan in 2003, pledging a total of $15 billion over five years to combat HIV in 15 of the hardest hit countries of Africa, Asia, and the Caribbean.

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice says the plan supported 42 million people in 2005 with prevention programs, treatment, and care. She notes that number of people getting anti-AIDS medicines under it is more than nine times higher than at the start of the policy.

"Two years ago, only 50,000 people in all of Sub-Saharan Africa had access to antiretroviral treatment," she said. "By the end of last year, the Emergency Plan had expanded treatment in that region to 400,000 people plus an additional 71,000 individuals worldwide."

Rice adds that U.S.-supported HIV care reached nearly three million people last year, while more than nine million received counseling and testing services. Three million women got advice on how to prevent transmitting the virus to their newborns. The U.S. government estimates that more than 41,000 infant infections were prevented.

A spokesman for the Global AIDS Alliance in Washington, David Bryden, says the government's report contains some good news. But he argues that the progress is far short of the promise Mr. Bush has made at industrial nation summits of ensuring universal access to AIDS treatment by 2010.

"There is some good news today, but there are some ways in which the report really bends the facts in terms of, for instance, how the U.S. program is meeting the needs of children," he said. "Still relatively few children are receiving help through the president's program. Only two percent of global AIDS funding goes to orphans and vulnerable children, and that is something that really should change."

Bryden also says the President Bush is seeking a 45 percent cut in the American contribution next year to the Global Fund, a international agency set up to provide money for AIDS, tuberculosis, and malaria programs.

But the government's report points out the United States remains the largest single contributor to the agency.

It adds that spending for condom use and birth control measures under the president's emergency plan rose substantially last year over 2004, although many of the Bush administration's conservative political supporters oppose those protective methods. The deputy U.S. Global AIDS coordinator, Mark Dybul, says support for abstinence and marital fidelity has also increased as part of the so-called ABC policy - Abstinence, Being faithful, and Condoms.

"So condom dollars have gone up, the supply of condoms from the United States hag one up dramatically since 2001," he said. "In fact, just going from 2004 to 2005, we had a great increase in dollars for condoms than abstinence and fidelity. But we have a balanced approach. Those condoms are now provided in the context of what we know works, which is A, B, and C."

The Bush administration's report says people are alive today because the United States has turned its words into action.