WASHINGTON – Marking World AIDS Day, President George W. Bush said Monday that his presidential initiative on the deadly disease already has met its goal of treating 2 million people in sub-Saharan Africa.
When the administration launched the President's Emergency Plan For AIDS Relief in 2003, the goal was to support 2 million people with lifesaving anti-retroviral treatment in five years.
"I'm pleased to announce that we have exceeded that goal early," said Bush, standing with first lady Laura Bush on the North Lawn of the White House, which was decorated with a giant red ribbon to mark the occasion. "The American people through PEPFAR are supporting lifesaving treatment for more than 2 million people around the world."
When the program began, only 50,000 people living with HIV in all of sub-Sahara Africa were receiving anti-retroviral treatment, he said. In addition, the United States has supported care for more than 10 million people around the world who are affected by HIV, including more than 4 million orphans and vulnerable children.
"More than 237,000 babies have been born HIV free, thanks to the support of the American people for programs to prevent mothers from passing the virus on to their children," he said.
Bush later spoke about the importance of combating AIDS during the Saddleback Civil Forum on Global Health held in Washington.
In videotaped remarks at the forum, President-elect Barack Obama praised the Bush administration's effort to combat AIDS and pledged to continue to fight the deadly disease when he takes office in January. "I salute President Bush for his leadership in crafting a plan for AIDS relief in Africa and backing it up with funding dedicated to saving lives and preventing the spread of the disease," Obama said.