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National News

Bush Pushes South African in Fighting AIDS

July 10, 2003

President Bush yesterday brought the promise of more money for fighting AIDS to South Africa, which has been slow to attack the disease, and he pressed President Thabo Mbeki to deal with the epidemic more effectively. On the second day of his five-day trip to Africa, Bush urged the South African leader to develop a plan that includes both the drug regimen and prevention efforts.

South Africa has 4.7 million people with HIV, one of the largest infected populations in the world, but Mbeki's government has not yet made antiretroviral drugs widely available. Advocacy groups have long demanded that Mbeki drop what they consider to be his incomprehensible reluctance to deal aggressively with the problem.

White House officials played down the differences between Bush and Mbeki on AIDS. They made clear, however, that the United States would use the leverage from its $15 billion AIDS-fighting package to prod Mbeki to move faster to bring all available weapons to bear. "We need a common-sense strategy to make sure that the money is well spent," Bush said at a news conference with Mbeki. "And the definition of well spent means lives are saved, which means good treatment programs, good prevention programs, good programs to develop health infrastructures in remote parts of different countries so that we can actually get antiretroviral drugs to those who need help."

Groups advocating more effort to tackle AIDS said they welcomed Bush's attempt to engage Mbeki in the program. But they said Bush had missed an opportunity by not making a more direct public statement of the need for Mbeki to change his approach. "There's no evidence that President Bush's visit advanced the South African government's thinking," said Mark Heywood, national secretary of the Treatment Action Campaign, a group pushing Mbeki to do more to battle HIV/AIDS. "We're still stuck with a government policy that is at odds with medical thinking universally."

Back to other CDC news for July 10, 2003

Previous Updates

Adapted from:
New York Times
07.10.03; Richard W. Stevenson

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This article was provided by CDC National Prevention Information Network. It is a part of the publication CDC HIV/Hepatitis/STD/TB Prevention News Update.
See Also
More on HIV Politics in South Africa