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12/1/03 - AIDS UPDATE - 2003-12-02

The global AIDS pandemic shows no sign of going away. A report released by the United Nations on November 25th finds that in 2003 five-million more people became infected with H-I-V, the virus that causes AIDS. And three-million people have died this year. About forty-million people are living with H-I-V/AIDS, according to the report.

Since the H-I-V/AIDS pandemic broke out in the early 1980s, it has caused more than twenty-million deaths worldwide. The pandemic is most severe in southern Africa, where one in five adults is infected. In most cases, H-I-V/AIDS is transmitted through sexual contact. But it is also spread through mother-to-baby transmission and some medical procedures. In addition, drug-users transmit H-I-V/AIDS through the use of infected needles.

The U.S. is committed to working with governments, the U-N and other international bodies, and non-governmental organizations to save lives by preventing new infections, treating people living with H-I-V/AIDS, and caring for others affected by the disease, including orphans. Dr. Peter Piot of the U-N said that, “The world is now mounting a greater response to AIDS through individual initiatives like the U.S. government’s Emergency Plan on AIDS.”

President George W. Bush has asked the U.S. Congress to allocate fifteen-billion dollars over the next five-years for an Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief. Mr. Bush says the U.S. “has the duty to confront this grave public health crisis”:

“Since January 2001, America has increased total spending to fight AIDS overseas by nearly one-hundred percent. We’ve already pledged more than [one-billion six-hundred million] dollars to the global fund to fight AIDS and other infectious diseases. It is by far the most of any nation in the world today.”

“When we see this kind of preventable suffering,” says President Bush, “when we see a plague leaving graves and orphans. . .we must act.”