(AFP) – Feb 20, 2008
ACCRA (AFP) — US President George W. Bush signalled Wednesday that he might drop his anti-HIV/AIDS strategy's insistence on sexual abstinence if he finds it is ineffective -- but not now, because the program is working.
"I monitor the results. And if it looks like it's not working, then we'll change. But thus far I can report, at least to our citizens, that the program has been unbelievably effective. And we're going to stay at it," he said.
Bush had been asked by a reporter in Ghana, the second-to-last stop in his Africa tour, about the plan's focus on abstinence and fidelity as being at odds with tacit African acceptance of multiple partners.
"I understand customs and norms, but it seems like to me that if you really want to solve the problem, step one is to have a comprehensive prevention program," said the US president.
He spoke as US lawmakers have been tussling over the program, which the White House's Democratic critics looking to strip or modify a requirement that one third of the money go to emphasizing abstinence amid warnings from some health experts that doing so is ineffective.
Bush detailed what he has called his "ABC" strategy -- abstinence, be faithful, use condoms -- and declared: "All I'm interested in is results. I'm wise enough to set the strategy and change the tactics if they're not working."
He also noted that the US plan includes caring for HIV/AIDS orphans and dispensing anti-retroviral drugs, and said that he had increased the number of people receiving the life-saving medications from 50,000 to 1.2 million.
"It's a good start, but it's only a start. And that's why, as the president mentioned, I've asked for Congress to double our budget on HIV/AIDS to 30 billion dollars (20 billion euros) over five years," he said.
Kufuor said that, "even as we agree to perhaps a bit of looseness in our ways," Ghana was helping to fight the spread of HIV/AIDS and warmly praised help from the United States.
"This money I hope will be put to the best uses in terms of engaging the best scientific and technological means to tackle this disease. The research is still ongoing. Nobody is announcing a find yet. But we shouldn't give up," he said.
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