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UNICEF commends Bush's endorsement of $15 billion AIDS bill

UNICEF commends Bush's endorsement of $15 billion AIDS bill

The United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) today commended President George W. Bush of the United States for his leadership in endorsing a $15 billion emergency bill to tackle AIDS in Africa and the Caribbean, and urged for substantial investment in prevention among young people.

"Because the future of the epidemic will be driven largely by the decisions that successive waves of young people make throughout their lives, investments should focus first and foremost on providing young people with the wherewithal to make the healthy, informed decisions that prevent HIV infection," UNICEF Executive Director Carol Bellamy said following President Bush's endorsement of the bill.

At a White House ceremony, President Bush gave his full support for a bill promoting a comprehensive prevention package that includes the thorny issue of condoms, which some sought to keep out of the final legislation, UNICEF said.

Based on a successful Ugandan model that saw prevalence rates among pregnant women drop from 20.6 per cent in 1991 to 7.9 per cent by 2000, the bill designates $3 billion a year for five years towards efforts to fight AIDS in Africa and the Caribbean. It is intended to help prevent 7 million new infections, treat at least 2 million people with life-extending drugs, and provide care for millions more suffering from AIDS, including children orphaned by the disease.

Ms. Bellamy encouraged the US administration to also direct a larger percentage of the total amount towards the UN Global Fund to Fight HIV/AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria. "The international community set up the Global Fund as the most efficient way to channel resources to developing countries to help them deal with the HIV/AIDS crisis," she noted. "The Fund desperately needs more support - in money and in commitment - from the US in order to remain viable."

The countries to receive assistance are Botswana, Côte d'Ivoire, Ethiopia, Guyana, Haiti, Kenya, Mozambique, Namibia, Nigeria, Rwanda, South Africa, Tanzania, Uganda, and Zambia.