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7/29/03 - AIDS PROGRAM IN HAITI - 2003-07-30

The United States is committed to helping other nations overcome one of the greatest health threats in the world today: the human-immune deficiency virus –- H-I-V –- that causes AIDS. This month, Haiti began implementation of a U.S.-sponsored program to stem mother-to-child H-I-V transmission.

The International Mother and Child H-I-V Prevention Initiative will form the foundation of President George W. Bush’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief -- a fifteen-billion-dollar program to help fourteen hard-hit African and Caribbean nations battle H-I-V/AIDS over the next five years. As President Bush said, the U.S. has “duties in the world”:

“And when we see disease and starvation and hopelessness, we will not turn away. America is now committed to bringing the healing power of medicine to millions of men and women and children who suffer with AIDS.”

Haiti, with an H-I-V prevalence rate of between four-and-a-half and six-and-a-half percent, is the most affected country outside of sub-Saharan Africa; the Caribbean is the second-most affected region after sub-Saharan Africa. Each year, between four-thousand and six-thousand children born in the region are H-I-V positive.

With at least three-hundred-thousand of Haiti’s more than eight-million people infected, H-I-V/AIDS is the leading cause of death for sexually active adults. An estimated thirty-thousand died in 2002.

In Haiti, the U.S. works with a number of organizations, including the Haitian Group for the Study of Kaposi's Sarcoma and Opportunistic Infections Clinic in Port-au-Prince, the capital. Last year the clinic treated more than twenty-one thousand patients and opened twenty-five testing and treatment centers throughout the country.

The Haitian program will annually test as many as one-million Haitian women and is expected to reduce the possibility of mother-to-child transmission by forty percent within five years. The plan to fight H-I-V/AIDS in Haiti, and elsewhere, is one of the largest humanitarian undertakings in U.S. history. “Millions of lives depend on the success of this effort,” said President Bush, “and we are determined to succeed.”