WASHINGTON (AFP) — President George W. Bush will mark World AIDS Day Monday by announcing that his administration has already met its goal of treating two million people living with HIV/AIDS by the end of the year, the White House said.
"PEPFAR is the largest commitment by any nation to combat a single disease in human history," White House spokeswoman Dana Perino said in a statement.
"When the President launched this initiative in 2003, approximately 50,000 people in all of sub-Saharan Africa were receiving anti-retroviral treatment."
The President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) provides funding for HIV/AIDS, malaria and tuberculosis treatment in 15 focus countries among the world's poorest, mainly in Africa.
As of September 30, PEPFAR supported life-saving antiretroviral treatment for over 2.1 million men, women and children living with HIV/AIDS around the world, including more than two million people in Sub Saharan Africa, Perino said.
Nearly 9.7 million people affected by HIV/AIDS in PEPFAR countries, including nearly four million orphans and other children, had received "compassionate care" by that date, she said.
"Nearly 240,000 babies have been born HIV-free due to the support of the American people for programs to prevent mothers from passing the virus on to their children," Perino added.
In July 2008, Bush signed legislation tripling PEPFAR funds to 48 billion dollars from 15 billion dollars. The new program drops a requirement for one-third of the anti-AIDS funds to be used to promote sexual abstinence and lifts a ban on HIV-positive foreigners entering the United States.
Later Monday, Bush and First Lady Laura Bush will participate in a forum with mega-church Pastor Rick Warren to discuss the fight against AIDS.
"HIV is still a major threat to public health throughout the world despite progress made over the years in some countries," the International Federation of the Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) warned in a statement Friday.
About two thirds of the world's HIV-positive cases are in sub-Saharan Africa. At least one person in 10 lives with HIV in nations such as South Africa, Zimbabwe, Botswana, Lesotho, Malawi, Mozambique, Namibia, Swaziland and Zambia, the IFRC said in a June report.
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