First Lady Impressed by Attitude on AIDS in Africa

By Stephen Mbogo | July 7, 2008 | 8:16pm EDT

Nairobi, Kenya ( - First lady Laura Bush says she is encouraged by a new attitude towards the HIV/AIDS pandemic in Africa, which she described as a "courageous" determination to manage the disease and stop its spread.

She is on a week-long tour in Africa, visiting AIDS projects sponsored by the U.S. government.

In Khayelitsha near Cape Town, South Africa, Mrs. Bush visited a health complex caring for HIV-positive mothers-to-be.

The project was developed by the Mothers' Programs, a private organization that receives some assistance through President Bush's five-year, $15 billion anti-AIDS funding.

It enlists mothers who have successfully managed to prevent transmitting the infection to their own children, to help and mentor other pregnant women.

"Projects like these make the U.S. government proud to be a partner in South Africa's fight against the HIV and AIDS pandemic," said the first lady, who is being accompanied by her daughter, Jenna.

Mrs. Bush said the U.S. administration was supporting ways to economically empower South African women as a way to prevent the spread of AIDS, based on the realization that poverty is a major driver of the pandemic in Africa.

"It has been proven that women who are financially independent and have access to information have a better chance of fighting HIV and AIDS. On the other hand, those who are illiterate and poor are the most vulnerable," she said.

"Last month, President Bush announced approximately $55 million for women's empowerment in Africa. The funds will help protect women and empower them in society."

From South Africa, Mrs. Bush traveled to Tanzania in East Africa. There she visited one of 16 schools set up with the help of U.S. donations and additional grants. The project is part of America's effort to increase the community's access to education by helping to build schools in the predominantly Muslim island of Zanzibar.

The first lady also visited a Catholic organization in the Tanzanian capital of Dar es Salaam. Known as PASADA, the facility is also a recipient of U.S. AIDS support funds and is involved in awareness campaigns, health education, counseling and the provision of antiretroviral drugs.

Mrs. Bush announced additional support of $500,000 for PASADA, which trains caregivers to provide home-based care for people with AIDS. The facility also provides support to orphans and other vulnerable children.

She said the president was a strong supporter of faith-based groups that bring help and healing to people in need.

"We appreciate the work of people who are affiliated with churches or mosques and other faith groups. When our government can work together with faith-based organizations, we will."

Bush will end her African tour with a visit to Rwanda, where President Paul Kagame is expected to also speak about ways in which the U.S. can help to ensure that the type of genocide experienced in his country more than a decade ago was not repeated in Sudan's Darfur region.

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