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Bush urges Congress to pass bigger AIDS program for Africa

by Staff Writers
Washington (AFP) Feb 28, 2008
US President George W. Bush urged Congress Thursday to quickly pass legislation tripling funds for a program to combat AIDS and malaria in the world's poorest countries, mainly in Africa.

The House of Representatives's Foreign Affairs Committee agreed by a voice vote late Wednesday to raise the program's budget to 50 billion dollars for the next five years. Bush had called for doubling funds to 30 billion dollars.

The proposal must now be approved by the full House and the Senate.

"Obviously I hope the House will act quickly and send the bill reauthorizing (the program) to the Senate and I would like to sign it into law as quickly as possible," Bush, who returned last week from a trip of Africa, where he is widely popular, told news conference.

The program also includes funds to fight tuberculosis.

The committee's vote came after majority Democrats reached a compromise with Republicans and the White House on how the funds will be used, following disagreements over the sexual abstinence portion of the program.

The panel's interim Democratic chairman, Representative Howard Berman, said the new program no longer requires that one-third of the anti-AIDS funds be used to promote sexual abstinence.

"It eliminates the one-third abstinence-only earmark, but requires a balanced approach to HIV/AIDS sexual transmission prevention programs and a report regarding this approach in countries where the epidemic has become generalized if we deviate from that balanced approach," he said.

"Twenty millions innocent men, women and children, we must remember, have perished from HIV/AIDS. Forty million around the globe are HIV-positive.

"Each and every day, another 6,000 people become infected with HIV. We have a moral imperative to act, and act decisively," he said.

Bush had secured from Congress 15 billion dollars over five years for the program in 2003.

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