United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan has welcomed U.S. President George W. Bush's pledge to spend billions of dollars to fight the devastating AIDS epidemic in Africa and the Caribbean.
In his State of the Union address Tuesday, President Bush said he will ask Congress to triple U.S. spending on AIDS over the next five years, bringing American assistance to $15 billion.
More than 35 million people worldwide are infected with the HIV virus, and 25 million of them are in Africa. U.N. AIDS organizations say as many as 70 million people will die of the disease over the next two decades unless greater resources are made available for prevention and treatment.
In a statement read by U.N. spokesperson Fred Eckhard, Mr. Annan congratulated Mr. Bush for providing stronger U.S. leadership in combating the disease and emphasizing the need to make anti-viral drugs available.
"We know from experiences on every continent that success is possible in preventing infection and treating and caring for those infected," he said. "But too often the lack of resources has prevented projects from growing into full scale national strategies required for success. President Bush has confirmed his belief that AIDS can be defeated. I hope the U.S. Congress will accept the President's challenge and insure the needed funding is made available as quickly as possible in keeping with the urgency of this crisis and I hope that this example will encourage other governments to follow suit."
The U.N. Secretary-General said Mr. Bush understands that the disease is also threatening the stability of the region as it ravages populations in the hardest hit nations. Among the nations the The White House is particularly targeting are Botswana, Ethiopia, Kenya, Namibia and Haiti.