Bush Makes Stops in Senegal, South Africa; Says U.S. Prepared To Help Africa ‘Turn Tide’ Against AIDS
President Bush yesterday continued his five-day, five-country trip through Africa, speaking in Senegal about HIV/AIDS and denouncing slavery, the Philadelphia Inquirer reports (Thomma, Philadelphia Inquirer, 7/9). Bush is scheduled to visit Senegal, South Africa, Botswana, Uganda and Nigeria before leaving the continent on Saturday. During the trip, the president is expected to promote several initiatives that focus on Africa, including his five-year, $15 billion AIDS initiative (HR 1298), which he signed into law in May. The global AIDS initiative seeks to prevent seven million new HIV infections, provide care for 10 million people living with the disease and provide treatment to two million HIV-positive people (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 7/8). Speaking in Senegal before departing for South Africa, Bush said, "In the face of spreading disease, we will join with you in turning the tide against AIDS in Africa" (Philadelphia Inquirer, 7/9). In South Africa -- which has the largest HIV-positive population of any nation in the world -- Bush met with President Thabo Mbeki, lauding the country's efforts to fight HIV/AIDS (BBC News, 7/9).
Bush tomorrow heads to Botswana for a seven-hour visit that is scheduled to include talks with President Festus Mogae about HIV/AIDS and trade (South African Press Association, 7/8). Botswana, which is using comprehensive programs involving prevention and treatment to fight AIDS, has received grants for its universal access antiretroviral drug program totaling more than $100 million over five years from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and drug maker Merck. In addition, the Harvard AIDS Institute has built a $4.5 million AIDS research laboratory and is training health care workers to address the epidemic (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 7/8). First lady Laura Bush and Botswana's first lady Barbara Mogae tomorrow are scheduled to visit Gabrone Princess Marina State Hospital's Children's Clinical Centre of Excellence, which treats HIV-positive children (South African Press Association, 7/8). According to official estimates, 38% of Botswana's 1.5 million residents are HIV-positive. Mogae said that HIV/AIDS and the stigma surrounding the disease are "threaten[ing] Botswana's future," according to the Associated Press. He added that "[a]ll gains are being reversed by HIV/AIDS." Mogae also said that he wants Botswanans to see HIV/AIDS as "any other" disease and to consider HIV tests "routine" (Kraft, Associated Press, 7/9).
Bush on Friday will travel to Uganda, which has "waged a successful fight to reduce" HIV prevalence "by enlisting frank discussion about sex," the Washington Post reports (Wax, Washington Post, 7/9). Uganda has had success in lowering HIV prevalence rates by employing the "ABC" HIV prevention model -- abstinence, be faithful, use condoms (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 5/28). Bush has cited Uganda's program as a model for his global HIV initiative (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 6/23). The program has led to a drop in the country's HIV prevalence from 30% of the population to 5% in a little more than 10 years. But Uganda's program "heavily promote[s]" condom use, which could put the president "at odds" with Ugandans, according to the Post. Michael Etukoit, manager of TASO, an AIDS support group, said, "I won't mind telling Mr. Bush when he visits that young children need to know about condoms here. It's too idealistic to say abstain when I serve 50,000 people for AIDS alone in my clinic." Health care workers in the country said that they hope Bush will "put health concerns ahead of political and religious ideology" when he sees the conditions brought about by the epidemic and that he endorses discussions "about options instead of only abstinence," according to the Post (Washington Post, 7/9).
ABC's "Nightline" yesterday focused its full program on AIDS in Africa, reviewing the events that led to Bush's push for funding to fight the epidemic. The program also examined the state of the HIV/AIDS epidemic in Uganda and what efforts the country is taking in fighting the disease (Wright, "Nightline," ABC, 7/8). Michel Martin interviewed Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni and discussed the success of Uganda's AIDS program. The program includes comments by Samaritan's Purse President Rev. Franklin Graham, Africa Action Executive Director Salih Booker and White House Office of National AIDS Policy Director Dr. Joseph O'Neill (Martin, "Nightline," ABC, 7/8). A segment of Martin's interview with Museveni is available online in RealPlayer.
NPR's "Morning Edition": NPR's Don Gonyea discusses Bush's visit to Pretoria, South Africa (Edwards, "Morning Edition," NPR, 7/9). The full segment is available online in RealPlayer.
NPR's "Tavis Smiley Show": AllAfrica.com Senior Writer Charles Cobb and ABC Nightline Correspondent Michel Martin discuss Bush's motivations for his focus on Africa and the AIDS crisis (Smiley, "Tavis Smiley Show," NPR, 7/8). The full segment is available online in RealPlayer.