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Bush: Pandemic of HIV/AIDS Can be Defeated

President Bush says the pandemic of HIV/AIDS can be defeated and the United States is committed to help stop the spread of the deadly disease. VOA correspondent Meredith Buel has details from Washington.

Marking World AIDS Day, President Bush met with top U.S. health officials and community leaders that battle the disease in countries like Botswana, Ivory Coast and Namibia.

Mr. Bush says the United States has a responsibility to help the 39 million people who are living with the disease around the world.

"This country is committed, we are committed to helping solve this problem by dedicating a lot of resources to the battle against HIV/AIDS," he said. "The American taxpayers have funded over $15 billion to help groups around this table save lives."

The White House says that money is being used over a five-year period to pay for treatment for 2 million people, prevention for 7 million and care for 10 million.

President Bush says before the program began, about 50,000 people were receiving lifesaving drugs. Today, more than 800,000 people are being treated with medicine to combat the disease.

Mr. Bush's initiative targets 15 countries, including many in sub-Saharan Africa.

"The pandemic of HIV/AIDS can be defeated and the United States is willing to take the lead in that fight. But we can't do it alone, so for our international partners, we appreciate what you do," he added.

More than 25 million people have died of AIDS since the first case was reported 25 years ago.

The United Nations says the virus is the leading cause of death among men and women between the ages of 15 and 59.