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President Bush Seeks Extension of AIDS Relief Program

United States President, George Bush Wednesday asked Congress to provide an additional 30 billion dollars to be used to fight the worldwide HIV/AIDS epidemic for the next five years. The money is expected to extend the mandate of the President's Emergency Program for AIDS Relief, which is due to expire in September 2008. Mr. Bush also announced his intention to double the initial 15 billion dollar commitment, already considered the largest international health initiative dedicated to a specific disease.

Ambassador Mark Dybul is the U.S. Global AIDS Coordinator. From the Washington D.C. he talked with VOA about the significance of President Bush’s announcement.

“The significance of President Bush’s announcement is that the American people will stand with the people around the world to fight against HIV/AIDS for at least a ten-year period, a decade of compassion generosity and hope. That we will continue to support the expansion of services and continue the services of those receiving them, it means individuals and communities would be transformed. And we are going to do it in way that it continues to support their effort to tackle their efforts that build hope, that creates the environment of hope,” Ambassador Dybul said.

He called on the rest of the world to join the United States efforts in fighting the deadly HIV/AIDS disease.

“What we need is for the rest of the world to respond in similar way. With this massive commitment of resources, it is still not enough. We need the rest of the world, both developed and developing countries, particularly middle-income countries to do the same. If they all respond in the same way that the president has done on behalf of the American people, we can tackle this epidemic,” he said.

Ambassador Dybul said President Bush’s announcement would go a long way in reaching out and helping those living with the disease.

“As President Bush pointed out, we would be able to expand from supporting treatment for two million to two point five million. In fact he announced today (Wednesday) currently, the American people are supporting treatment for one point one million people. So from this point forward it would more than double the number of people receiving therapy. They would support prevention for 12 million new infections and support care for 10 million, including five million orphans and vulnerable children,” he said.

He reiterated the president’s initiative would give hope to people living with the HIV/AIDS.

“What that means is will prevent infections so that the parents can stay alive to take care of their children, will take care of people who are suffering from this epidemic and who would otherwise die. HIV/AIDS is a death sentence without care and treatment, what it means is communities will remain whole. What it means is communities would have hope and would continue to tackle not only HIV, but also other problems in their communities… the American people have been there to support people on the ground,” he pointed out.

Ambassador Dybul said the president’s initiative would be expanding the successes it has so far achieved.

“The president outlined new goals for preventing care and treatment programs and what would we be doing is expanding the great success so far… but that success is working in countries with folks in country from all sectors… to support their efforts to tackle their epidemic, have the American people partner with other people in the world, so that they own their epidemic, and they own their response and have hope because of that,” he said.

Ambassador Dybul explained some of the achievements the president had chalked with his initiative.

“President bush has doubled development over all and quadrupled development resources for Africa in his tenure. And so we are going to be connecting with all of the programs that the president has been expanding,” he said.