Bush releases $200 million for global AIDS 'war chest'
WASHINGTON (CNN) -- President Bush, saying he wanted the United States to set an example for the world, today released approximately $200 million for a global HIV-AIDS fund intended to significantly bolster medical research and treatment efforts and provide aid to families that have been ravaged by the disease.
Bush, speaking in the White House Rose Garden at midmorning Friday, said the U.S. contribution should be seen as "seed money" to get the fund started, and he urged other world governments, foundations, non-governmental organizations and private "faith-based" groups to follow the federal government's example.
Much of the fund is destined to be directed to AIDS relief endeavors in sub-Saharan Africa, where millions have been infected by HIV and AIDS. Some of the money would also be applied to efforts to eradicate malaria and tuberculosis.
"The sheer number of those infected and dying is almost beyoind comprehension," Bush said. "The suffering on the African continet is especially great. There are 11 million AIDS orphans in sub-Saharan Africa alone."
More U.S. money would soon follow, he pledged.
"I am committing the United States of America to support a new worldwide fund with a founding contribution of $200 million," Bush said.
"This is in addition to the billions we spend on research, and the $760 million we are spending this year to help the international effort to fight AIDS. (There will be more) to follow as we learn how our support can be most effective."
Bush was accompanied Friday morning by Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanjo, who thanked the president for timing the U.S. announcement to coincide with his visit.
Nigeria is one of the most vital sub-Saharan trading partners of the United States. The populous nation, a member of the OPEC oil cartel, possesses vast oil resources and is active in regional affairs -- most notably in its newly democratic government's efforts to battle HIV and AIDS and its regional peacekeeping missions.
"I thank you on behalf of all AIDS sufferers in the world, and particularly on behalf of all AIDS sufferers in Africa," Obasanjo said. "All humankind is challenged and called upon to make contributions to the global trust fund."
Bush and Obasanjo were scheduled to retire to the White House shortly after the Rose Garden announcement to discuss a wide variety of issues -- most notably Bush's hope to convince OPEC to boost its daily per-barrel production of crude oil, as the U.S. anticipates a supply shortage heading into the summer.
The two were also likely to talk of West African security. Nigeria has organized a number of local peace keeping forces whose mission have been to stamp out violent flare-ups in countries such as Sierra Leone.
Annan praises U.S. effort
Also on hand was U.N. Secretary General Koffi Annan, whose visit to the White House comes at the end of a very tense week between the United States and the world body. Earlier this week, the United States was voted off a U.N. human rights commission. The House of Representatives responded to that move Thursday by voting to hold back a massive U.S. payment of back dues to the U.N., though that vote was successful even against the stated wishes of the Bush administration.
"We need a response that matches the challenge," Annan said of the AIDS effort. "The resources provided must be over and above what is being spent today on the disease and in aid to developing countries."
"I believe today will be remembered as the day we began to turn the tide," he said.
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