Bush Assures Africans They Won't Fight AIDS Alone

By Stephen Mbogo | July 7, 2008 | 8:13 PM EDT

Nairobi, Kenya (CNSNews.com) - The United States will commit enough resources to combat the spread of AIDS, President George W. Bush assured Africans Thursday.

Calling the disease "the deadliest enemy Africa has ever faced," Bush told the people of Botswana they would not face it alone.

The landlocked, mineral-rich southern African country has been hit harder by AIDS than any other.

Forty percent of the adults among its 1.7 million people are HIV-positive, and life expectancy has dropped in recent years from 67 years of age to 40. About 70,000 children have been orphaned as a result of the disease.

"The people of this nation have the courage and resolve to defeat this disease, and you will have a partner in the United States of America," Bush told reporters in the capital city of Gaborone.

He praised the country's leaders for their battle against AIDS and said the U.S. was "working to put a strategy in place to treat people and prevent [infection] and provide help for those who suffer."

Bush has pledged $15 billion to fight AIDS in specified countries in Africa and the Caribbean.

About 55 percent of the pledged amount is to be used for treatment programs, 20 percent for HIV prevention, 15 percent for palliative care and 10 percent for children made orphans by the disease.

Of the money earmarked for prevention programs, one-third is to be used to promote abstinence, in line with a stipulation that has been welcomed by American conservatives.

The initiative focuses on 12 African countries - Botswana, South Africa, Namibia, Mozambique, Zambia, Ethiopia, Kenya, Rwanda, Tanzania, Uganda, Nigeria and Cote d'Ivoire - as well as Guyana and Haiti in the Caribbean.

Some 25 million people - mostly in Africa - have died of AIDS worldwide, and experts estimate that figure will have risen to at least 80 million by 2010, with most of those being Africans.

They warn that the worst of the epidemic has not yet passed - especially in southern Africa, where the regional infection rate averages 33 percent or one person in every three.

On Thursday, Dr. Peter Piot, executive director of UNAIDS, told leaders meeting in Mozambique that 60 million Africans were "either living with HIV, have died of AIDS or they have lost their parents to AIDS."

Many more had been directly affected in other ways, he added.

Botswana has been cooperating with U.S. institutions in the search for an AIDS vaccine.

Tuesday marked the start of a joint vaccine trial initiative between the government of Botswana and the Harvard AIDS Institute, being carried out at the Princess Marina hospital in Gaborone.

Last year, Botswana became the first African country to offer free anti-retroviral drugs to HIV-positive citizens. It also launched a comprehensive prevention and treatment campaign, seen as a model for fighting the epidemic elsewhere in Africa.

According to AIDS experts, the HIV strain prevalent in Botswana is subtype C, which is highly resistant. Most parts of the developing world have subtypes A and B.

Botswana is a stable democracy and has one of the strongest economies in Africa.

It is also one of the richest countries in Africa, although the wealth distribution is uneven, with one in every two people living below the poverty line.

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