AIDS, or Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome, is a disease caused by the Human Immunodeficiency Virus, or H-I-V. It has killed almost twenty-million people in sub-Saharan Africa over the past twenty years, and it is the number-one cause of death in the region. The loss of so many people in their most productive years has had a devastating impact on Africa’s economy and society. Without adequate intervention, experts say that AIDS will claim the lives of one-quarter of Africa’s population during the next decade.
Of the forty-two million people living with H-I-V/AIDS worldwide, seventy-five percent live in sub-Saharan Africa or the Caribbean. The disease has orphaned more than fourteen-million children worldwide, including more than eleven-million in Africa.
But there is hope. Countries such as Uganda, Thailand, and Senegal have dramatically decreased their H-I-V/AIDS rates by means of aggressive prevention strategies. To help other countries emulate these successes, the United States has committed fifteen-billion dollars over the next five years to fighting H-I-V and AIDS. The plan includes an initiative that targets H-I-V/AIDS in fourteen countries in sub-Saharan Africa and the Caribbean. President George W. Bush said, “Millions of lives depend on the success of this effort and we are determined to succeed”:
“We will train doctors and nurses and other health care professionals so they can treat H-I-V/AIDS patients. Our efforts will ensure that clinics and laboratories will be built or renovated and then equipped. Child care workers will be hired and trained to care for AIDS orphans, and people living with AIDS will get home-based care to ease their suffering. Throughout all regions of the targeted countries we will provide H-I-V testing. We will support abstinence-based prevention education. Faith-based and community organizations will have our help as they provide treatment and prevention and support services in communities affected by H-I-V/AIDS.”
The U.S. makes this commitment for a clear and simple reason. Americans believe in the value and dignity of every human life. And, as President Bush said, “We’re putting that belief into practice.”