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Vietnam Receives US Funding to Help Fight AIDS - 2004-06-22

Vietnam is becoming a new focus of the Bush's administration's plan to fight the disease AIDS around the world.

Vietnam is the first country outside Africa and the Caribbean chosen to participate in the Bush administration's $15 billion program to combat AIDS.

Administration officials say the president will make the announcement Wednesday in a speech in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. They say that when the decision was made to expand the AIDS program to other regions of the world, several countries were considered including India and Cambodia, but they say they felt the program could have the greatest impact in Vietnam.

These officials say Vietnam is facing an explosion of AIDS cases. They say the number of cases in Vietnam is multiplying at a faster rate than in Russia or China and they stress that U.S. intervention is timely because the epidemic is just starting to spread in the general population.

It is unclear just how much money will go to AIDS prevention and treatment in Vietnam. Like the fourteen nations already participating in the program, all the assistance will be funneled through international organizations that provide AIDS services.

AIDS advocacy groups have said for some time that they would like to see the program expand to Asia, but the choice of Vietnam is likely to generate some criticism from political conservatives in the United States who have complained long and hard about Vietnam's human rights record.

There are believed to be about 80,000 AIDS cases in Vietnam. Roughly 43 million people around the world are infected with the AIDS virus and more than 25 million have died from the disease.