Former Pharmaceutical Exec to Lead AIDS Fight

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Former Eli Lilly & Co. chief executive Randall Tobias (search) will be the new coordinator for the global AIDS emergency action plan, a new $15 billion program to slow the spread of AIDS (search) and to treat it in Africa and the Caribbean, President Bush said Wednesday.

"As global AIDS coordinator, Randy will have the rank of ambassador and will report directly to Secretary of State Powell. He will coordinate all of our international HIV/AIDS activities for all of our government departments and agencies. He will oversee all resources of this program and he will work with the faith-based and community groups to get the job done," Bush said as he announced his decision in the Roosevelt Room.

Bush signed into law last month a measure to direct the money to 14 countries, most of them in Africa. The bill provides considerable assistance to nations suffering from an explosion of HIV/AIDS cases. In Africa and the Caribbean, nearly 32 million people are stricken with the disease.

Tobias will help purchase low-cost anti-retroviral medications and other drugs and set up broad and efficient delivery networks to get the drugs throughout African nations targeted in the program.

The program aims to train doctors, nurses and other health care professionals in caring for people living with AIDS as well as provide assistance to those orphaned by the disease. HIV testing will be expanded as will abstinence-based prevention education.

Bush travels to five nations in Africa starting Monday -- Senegal, South Africa, Botswana, Nigeria and Uganda.

"When I visit Africa, I'll reaffirm our nation's commitment to helping Africans fight this disease. America makes this commitment for a clear reason, directly rooted at our founding: We believe in the value and dignity of every human life. We're putting that belief into practice. We have a lot of work ahead of us and we're eager to get started," he said.

Tobias retired from Lilly in 1998. He has been a major contributor to the Republican Party. He must be confirmed by the Senate.