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Bush Wants Expanded Plan to Fight AIDS

President Bush is urging the U.S. Congress to support a massive expansion of his program to help AIDS patients in the developing world. VOA's Paula Wolfson reports from the White House.

In 2003, President Bush announced plans to provide billions of dollars to fight AIDS in 15 countries - primarily in Africa.

That program, which focuses on prevention, treatment, and support services, is now nearing the end of its original five-year life span. And the president is urging Congress to not only extend it for another five years, but to double the funding from $15 billion to $30 billion.

"America will work with governments, the private sector and faith and community based organizations around the world to meet measurable goals: to support treatment for nearly 2.5 million people, to prevent more than 12 million new infections, and to support care for 12 million people, including more than five million orphans and vulnerable children," said President Bush.

The president made the announcement at an event in the White House Rose Garden, where he was joined by American supporters of the program, as well as two men who run AIDS clinics in Kenya and Haiti, and a South African woman who now coordinates a mentoring program for mothers like her who carry the AIDS virus.

"Similar success stories are playing out all across the African continent, where victims of HIV/AIDS are finding new reservoirs of strength and support," he said. "Villages in Africa now talk of the "Lazarus effect" - dying communities being brought back to life thanks to the compassion of the American people."

The president's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief is focusing its efforts on 12 African countries, as well as Haiti, Guyana and Vietnam. The president said first lady Laura Bush will travel to Africa in late June to gauge the program's success.

"She is going to meet with community leaders and visit with participants in HIV-AIDS programs during her trip to Zambia, Mali, Senegal and Mozambique," said the president.

AIDS activists welcomed the announcement of additional funding, saying the program has made a difference in the countries where it is in full operation. But at the same time, they urged the U.S. government to devote more money to the cause, saying a sustained effort is needed to win the war against AIDS.

The announcement on AIDS funding came at a time when the Bush administration is highlighting its commitment to development aid and human rights in advance of the Group of Eight Summit next week in Germany.

On Tuesday, the president announced enhanced sanctions on Sudan designed to pressure Khartoum to stop the violence in the troubled Darfur region. On Thursday, Mr. Bush will deliver a speech here in Washington on his international development agenda.