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Inside Politics

Bush adds Vietnam to AIDS fund

President touts global plan, but some critics skeptical
President Bush speaks Wednesday at the Greater Exodus Baptist Church in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.
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PHILADELPHIA, Pennsylvania (CNN) -- In a visit to a politically pivotal state, President Bush touted his global AIDS plan Wednesday and named Vietnam as the 15th nation eligible for help.

"We're putting a history of bitterness behind us with Vietnam," Bush said at Greater Exodus Baptist Church in Philadelphia, which is active in the Stand With Africa campaign against AIDS.

In a speech laced with references to God and faith, Bush said, "Every man and woman and child who suffers from this affliction -- from the streets of Philly to the villages of Africa -- is a child of God who deserves our love and our help."

Bush has previously unveiled a $15 billion, five-year plan to fight AIDS, but only a fraction of that money has been spent.

Bush said he proposes to spend $2.8 billion in fiscal 2005 for his global AIDS plan and $17.5 billion domestically. That includes $20 million in new funding for life-saving drugs for HIV-infected individuals living in the United States.

The funds -- both at home and abroad -- would be spent on care, research, prevention and treatment.

Bush's proposal has generally won plaudits from AIDS activists and lawmakers, but some have said the administration has exaggerated the amount of new money committed to battling AIDS and needs to do more.

"We ... need the president to live up to his promises and provide full funding to our global HIV/AIDS initiative if we are to tackle not only Vietnam but India, Russia and China," Rep. Barbara Lee, D-California, said in a written statement. "That means that we need nothing less than $3.6 billion this year."

Dr. Marsha Martin, executive director of AIDS Action, an advocacy group, described Bush's global initiative as "absolutely exceptional," but she called on the administration to do more on the domestic front, saying funding within the United States has essentially been flat for the past three years.

"The concern is the programs have not kept pace with the ever-growing epidemic," Martin said.

Bush's visit to Pennsylvania was his 29th since becoming president, making it second only to Texas -- his home state -- as the most visited.

Pennsylvania, with its 21 electoral votes, is seen as a swing state this election. Following his speech, Bush attended a private fund-raiser for the Republican National Committee.

Bush launched a global emergency plan for AIDS relief in his 2003 State of the Union Address.

That plan was targeted at 12 nations in Africa and two in the Caribbean. Vietnam, with 130,000 AIDS sufferers, now joins that group.

Bush also addressed U.S. needs, saying about 40,000 Americans are infected each year with HIV, the virus that causes AIDS.

He said the disease was the second-leading cause of death for African-Americans between the ages 25 and 44.

Bush outlined a three-part strategy: supporting prevention programs; providing better treatment and care; and acting as quickly as possible to get life-saving drugs to the neediest patients while ensuring federal programs are aimed at saving lives.

He emphasized abstinence as key to fighting AIDS.

"We need to tell our children that abstinence is the only certain way to avoid contracting HIV. It works every time," Bush said. "We must ask them to lead healthy and responsible lives."

Bush said he would focus on life-extending care when he proposes a reauthorization of the Ryan White Care Act.

White, who was 19 when he died, was infected with HIV as a young teen through blood infusions.

CNN's Sean Loughlin contributed to this report.

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