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2/4/03 - STATE OF THE UNION: H-I-V/AIDS - 2003-02-05

Since the 1980s, AIDS -- acquired immunodefiency syndrome -- has become a worldwide epidemic. AIDS is caused by the human immunodefiency virus, or H-I-V. The virus is spread most commonly through unprotected sex. It is also spread through receipt of infected blood or blood products.

The statistics are chilling. More than forty-million people around the world now live with H-I-V or full-blown AIDS. There are fourteen-million children who are orphans because parents died from AIDS. And unless the epidemic is stemmed through effective prevention, the number of orphans to AIDS could swell to twenty-five million by the end of the decade.

Today, in Africa alone, nearly thirty-million people are infected with AIDS or the H-I-V virus, including three-million children under the age of fifteen. In some African countries, more than one-third of the adult population carries the infection. More than four-million Africans require immediate treatment. Yet only a fraction are receiving the medicine they need. Newly developed drugs can extend and improve life for people living with AIDS. If treatment and care are provided, more people will seek out testing to find out whether they have been infected.

Through education, AIDS can be prevented. And drugs can extend life for those living with AIDS for many years. The government of Uganda has an intensive education campaign that is working. The infection rate in Uganda has fallen by fifty percent since 1992.

President George W. Bush, in his State of the Union address, said the U-S has “confronted and will continue to confront H-I-V/AIDS.” To meet this ongoing threat, President Bush proposed what he called an “Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief.” President Bush said his effort will be “a work of mercy beyond all current international efforts to help the people of Africa. This comprehensive plan will prevent seven-million new AIDS infections, treat at least two-million people with life-extending drugs, and provide humane care for millions of people suffering from AIDS, and children orphaned by AIDS.”

The U-S is committed to reducing the spread of H-I-V/AIDS by widening the circle of those who receive preventive education, medical treatment, and compassionate care. As President Bush said, “seldom has history offered a greater opportunity to do so much for so many.”