The United States has released $350 million to help African and Caribbean countries fight the spread of the deadly AIDS virus.

The funds are the first installment of a $15 billion, five-year, program promised last year by President Bush to fight the disease worldwide.

The plan targets $9 billion to speed up prevention, treatment and care services in 14 countries in Africa and the Caribbean. The countries are Botswana, Ivory Coast, Ethiopia, Guyana, Haiti, Kenya, Mozambique, Namibia, Nigeria, Rwanda, South Africa, Tanzania, Uganda and Zambia.

U.S. health officials say those countries represent at least 50 percent of the world's 40 million people living with HIV and AIDS.

The plan also earmarks $5 billion over five years to bilateral programs in more than 100 other countries and adds $1 billion to programs to fight malaria and tuberculosis.

U.S. Anti-AIDS Coordinator Randall Tobias said Monday's $350 million disbursement will fund programs that are providing anti-retroviral treatment, prevention programs and programs to help orphan children.

Some information for this report provided by AP and AFP.