First Lady Visits Haitian AIDS Clinic

By admin

Originally published on Advocate.com March 18 2008 12:00 AM ET

U.S. first lady
Laura Bush toured Haiti's capital on Thursday to promote
funding for AIDS patients and support education in the
impoverished Caribbean country.

Bush spoke with
three HIV-positive young adults during a morning visit to
GHESKIO, a prominent AIDS clinic in the run-down center of
Port-au-Prince. She called on Congress to keep President
Bush's international AIDS relief plan from expiring
this year.

''It's a nice
chance to be with you all today to see the results of what
you all are dealt and how it's helping people,'' Bush told
the clinic's director and staff during her one-day
visit.

A Senate
committee approved legislation Thursday that would triple
funding to $50 billion for the five-year program, which
expires this year, to fight AIDS and other diseases in
Africa and in nations like Haiti and Guyana. The bill
now moves to the full Senate. The first lady also
looked at prepared tables of fruit, dry goods, and other
products bought and sold by HIV-positive women with
help of small loans from the center, which was founded
at the dawn of the AIDS crisis in 1982 and now serves
more than 140,000 patients annually. The center receives
international funding and has played a central role in
fighting Haiti's once-soaring AIDS infection rate,
which is now around 3.8%, according to the United
Nations.

HIV patient
Mariana Pierre, 20, read a poem she wrote in Haitian Creole
for the first lady's visit.

''We shall learn
from our mistakes, death will befriend us. For what good
is it to live in ignorance?'' Pierre said as Bush listened
to a translator and smiled.

Bush barely set
foot outside a car or building during the tightly managed
trip. But the motorcade showcased Haiti's improving security
under a U.N. peacekeeping force, passing through the
chaotic La Saline market and near the oceanside Cite
Soleil slum, which was largely controlled by gangs
until last year. She also visited an education center funded
by the U.S. Agency for International Aid and
Development where officials are trying to reduce a
nearly 50% national illiteracy rate.

It was the first
time since Hillary Clinton arrived in 1998 that a U.S.
first lady has visited Haiti. Bush traveled later Thursday
to Mexico City, where she met with Mexican first lady
Margarita Zavala and female political and business
leaders. She was scheduled to attend Friday's
inauguration of the U.S.–Mexico Partnership for
Breast Cancer Awareness and Research. (Jonathan M.
Katz, AP)