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12/5/02 - FIGHTING AIDS - 2002-12-05

The worldwide AIDS epidemic has taken the lives of more than twenty million people and is projected to take the lives of millions more. So far this year, more than three million have died. Many others have contacted H-I-V, the virus that eventually leads to AIDS.

A report released by the United Nations says that the high rate of H-I-V infection is especially severe in the African countries of Lesotho, Malawi, Mozambique, Swaziland, Zambia, and Zimbabwe. In these six predominately agricultural societies more than five million adults have either H-I-V or full-blown AIDS, while six-hundred-thousand children under the age of fifteen live with the virus.

The U-N report also states that AIDS is spreading in Eastern Europe and Central Asia. In these areas, there were two-hundred-fifty-thousand infections this year. That brings the total number of people living in these areas with H-I-V or AIDS to well over one million.

The United States is committed to working with other countries to save lives by preventing new H-I-V infections, helping people already infected, and contributing to the search for a cure.

Earlier this year, a global fund to meet the challenges posed by AIDS, tuberculosis, and malaria was established. The fund is attracting, managing, and disbursing resources to governments and nongovernmental organizations through a public-private partnership. As of October, governments, corporations, foundations, and individuals had pledged more than two billion dollars to the fund. The U.S. is the largest contributor, with a pledge of five-hundred million dollars.

The U.S. also supports the International Mother and Child H-I-V Prevention Initiative, which focuses on countries in Africa and the Caribbean where the problem is most severe. This project is designed to treat one million women annually and reduce mother-to-child transmission of H-I-V by forty percent within five years. Among other things, the Mother and Child HIV Prevention Initiative will increase the availability of preventive care and drug therapy. As President George W. Bush said, “To help stop the global spread of AIDS we must prevent mothers from passing the H-I-V virus to their children.”