Laura Bush Visits S. African Program That Aims To Prevent Mother-to-Child HIV Transmission on First Day of Tour
First lady Laura Bush on Tuesday began her four-day tour of three African countries with a visit to Khayelitsha township in Cape Town, South Africa, where she spoke with women enrolled in a peer education program for mothers and pregnant women that aims to prevent mother-to-child HIV transmission, the AP/Guardian reports (Loven, AP/Guardian, 7/12). The program provides services to between 2,500 and 3,000 pregnant women each month, according to program Director Robin Smalley (Agence France-Presse, 7/11). The pregnant women participating in the Mothers' Programmes learn about medications, nutrition, formula feeding, and how to combat stigma and societal pressures. After their infants are born, the women become mentors to new women entering the program. Mentors are paid a small salary and participate in other entrepreneurial projects, such as beading and blanket-making groups, giving them a chance to become financially independent (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 6/27). Bush on Tuesday also was scheduled to meet with South Africans who are working to combat domestic violence, a key component of the fight against HIV/AIDS in South Africa. Bush's tour is intended to highlight the epidemic on the continent (AP/Guardian, 7/12). From South Africa, Bush on Wednesday will travel to Tanzania to visit AIDS orphans there (Loven, AP/Newark Star-Ledger, 7/12). She then will travel to Rwanda to participate in a discussion on women and democracy with Rwandan first lady Jeannette Kagame (Agence France-Presse, 7/11).
NBC's "Today" on Tuesday included an exclusive interview with Bush as she visited a community center near Cape Town to promote HIV/AIDS prevention and women's rights. "Today" correspondent Ann Curry, who is traveling with Bush, spoke with Bush while touring a center that is supported by the U.S., Swedish and South African governments. The center provides training for women to produce craft products for export, nutrition and education for their children and an on-site HIV/AIDS clinic. Bush said that the craft skills taught at the center give the women "the independence they need to try to negotiate their own lives, particularly their own sexual lives, which gives them a chance to either avoid HIV or to be treated" (Curry, "Today," NBC, 7/12). A video excerpt of the segment is available online in RealPlayer. On Monday, "Today" reported on Botswana's HIV/AIDS epidemic. The segment includes comments from Gill Fonteyn, who with his wife operates Dula Sentle, a day care center for children orphaned by AIDS, and Cynthia Leshomo, an HIV/AIDS counselor who won Botswana's 2005 "Miss HIV Stigma Free" beauty pageant (Curry, "Today," NBC, 7/11). A transcript and video in Windows Media of Tuesday's segment is available online.