President Bush on Thursday called upon Congress to fully fund the recently approved five-year, $15 billion international AIDS initiative. Bush, speaking a little less than two weeks before a planned visit to several countries in Africa that have high HIV prevalence rates, said he is "absolutely determined to see [the initiative] through until we have turned the tide against AIDS in Africa."
The initiative calls for $3 billion in fiscal 2004 for HIV prevention and treatment programs in Africa and the Caribbean, including $1 billion to be granted to the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis, and Malaria. But plans being considered by Congress currently call for significantly less funding. The House Appropriations Committee is considering $1.77 billion in cuts to the foreign aid portion of the 2004 budget, including cuts to the AIDS initiative. The Senate has yet to address funding for the AIDS program.
Bush is scheduled to visit Senegal, South Africa, Botswana, Uganda, and Nigeria from July 7 to July 12 and will focus on AIDS and economic development issues during the trip. Botswana has the world's highest HIV prevalence rate, with about 40% of the nation's adults infected with HIV, while South Africa has the world's highest number of HIV-positive people, with about 5 million South Africans infected with the virus.