President George W. Bush’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief reflects the view that Global AIDS is, in fact, an emergency. Estimates are that about forty-million people worldwide are infected with the H-I-V virus that causes AIDS. Each day, approximately eight-thousand people around the world die from the disease.
The pandemic is especially severe in sub-Saharan Africa, which accounts for three-quarters of those with H-I-V or AIDS. In Botswana, nearly forty-percent of the adult population has tested positive for H-I-V.
The U.S. government is doing something new in Africa. In addition to preventing AIDS and caring for those affected, the U.S. is also providing drugs to save the lives of people living with H-I-V. While such lifesaving medicines are standard treatment in the U.S., only now, with President Bush’s Emergency Plan, are they becoming widely available in Africa.
Ambassador Randall Tobias, the U.S. State Department’s AIDS coordinator, says that the U.S. has released three-hundred-fifty million dollars to fight H-I-V/AIDS:
“With this first round of funds, an additional fifty-thousand people living with H-I-V/AIDS are beginning to receive anti-retroviral treatment in sub-Saharan Africa. Today activities have been approved for treatment in Kenya, Nigeria and Zambia, and patients are receiving treatment in South Africa and Uganda because of the emergency plan."
This is just the beginning. A further five-hundred million dollars in U.S. assistance will be forthcoming in the next few weeks, and funds will continue to flow in the months and years ahead. The U.S. is leading the world community in responding to global AIDS as the emergency it is. As far as the U.S. is concerned, there’s no time to lose.