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Good news...Bush gives in to AIDS assistance abroad

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Bush Proposes Spending $500 Million on AIDS

By THE ASSOCIATED PRESS

Filed at 11:42 a.m. ET

WASHINGTON (AP) -- President Bush on Wednesday proposed spending $500 million to keep mothers in parts of Africa and the Caribbean from passing the AIDS virus to their babies. He called on other world leaders to help ``save children from disease and death.''

``Medical science gives us the power to save these young lives. Conscience demands we do so,'' Bush said.

He unveiled his proposal for the increased spending, mostly for anti-AIDS medications to be administered during pregnancy and after birth, in a Rose Garden ceremony.

Parts of the proposal already are pending in Congress. And the $500 million figure falls far short of what many say is needed to battle the global epidemic.

Bush's announcement is part of a White House strategy to project a compassionate image for the United States ahead of a summit next week in Canada. The aim is to soften criticism that America doesn't spend enough helping poor countries, a senior Bush adviser said.

The president called his proposal ``the first of this scale by any government anywhere.''

A chief focus of the Group of Eight meeting -- leaders of the world's seven largest industrial powers and Russia -- will be a new development plan for Africa.

The money Bush is proposing is designed only to address mother-to-child transmission in eight African countries and the Caribbean. Eventually, the program would expand to include a dozen countries in Africa, officials said.

``Today I call on other industrialized nations and international organizations to joint this crucial effort to save children from disease and death,'' Bush said.

Two million women infected with HIV become pregnant each year, most of them in poor countries. Between one-quarter and one-third transmit the disease to their newborns either during labor or while breast-feeding. That translates into 2,000 new AIDS-infected infants each day -- a statistic that alarms public health officials and cripples the countries' ability to develop their economies.

More than 8,000 people die of AIDS each day.

The right medication regimen has been shown to significantly reduce the risk that pregnant women will pass HIV to their children.

Included on the target list in Bush's proposal is South Africa, which has more people infected with HIV, 4.7 million, any other country. The government there had until recently been widely criticized for government policies that did not do enough to provide access to lifesaving treatment.

Anticipating such an announcement from the president, Senate Republicans recently scaled back the amount of money they were seeking to fight AIDS abroad in an anti-terrorism bill. After lobbying from the White House, the final Senate bill included $200 million in anti-AIDS spending instead of $500 million.

Bush has already requested nearly $900 million for the worldwide AIDS fight for the fiscal year beginning Oct. 1. This year's total is more than $750 million, not including the $200 million in the anti-terror bill.

The president's proposal would include the $200 million to be spent this year. The remaining $300 million would be spent over the next few years, a Bush official said. All of it would be targeted to preventing mothers from passing the disease on to their babies.

It's about time! Even though they say it's not enough $, it's a step in the right direction to save the thousands of poor kids who die from AIDS every year

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