First Lady Laura Bush Tours Haiti To Highlight U.S. HIV/AIDS Programs
First lady Laura Bush on Thursday visited the Haitian capital of Port-au-Prince as part of a trip to highlight U.S. efforts to promote health care issues, including HIV/AIDS, in the region, the New York Times reports. According to the Times, Bush during her visit promoted the President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief, which provides assistance to Haiti (Lacey, New York Times, 3/14).
While in Port-au-Prince, Bush toured the GHESKIO clinic, an HIV/AIDS research center, and talked with staff and HIV-positive teenagers, the Miami Herald reports. Bill Pape, director of the GHESKIO clinic, said the HIV prevalence in Haiti has decreased from about 14% ten years ago to 2.2% today. Bush also met with several HIV-positive women who receive assistance from the clinic's microfinancing program, which is funded by USAID (Charles, Miami Herald, 3/14).
"It's important for young people to know if they do get tested and are HIV-positive, there are good things they can do," Bush said after meeting with two young women and a young man who are accessing treatment at GHESKIO (New York Times, 3/14). She said that she wants to "encourage, especially the people of Haiti and the Haitian-Americans . . . in Florida and all over the United States, to stay involved in Haiti, to reach out as individuals . . . to make sure this success continues," adding, "It's important for Americans to know what they are doing."
Bush also said that she is particularly concerned about how vulnerable women are to HIV/AIDS. She praised efforts aimed at reducing mother-to-child HIV transmission and said that women should take increased control of their lives. 'I want to urge women everywhere to know they don't have to comply with men in every case," Bush said, adding, "They should try to protect themselves in the very best way that they can. I urge women to do what they can to be responsible for themselves, to reach out to each other and to tell their girls, their children, their daughters as they raise them that their main responsibility is to themselves" (Miami Herald, 3/14).
Bush also visited an education center funded by USAID where efforts are being made to reduce Haiti's nearly 50% national illiteracy rate, the AP/Yahoo! News reports. Later on Thursday, Bush traveled to Mexico City to meet with Mexican first lady Margarita Zavala, as well as other female political and business leaders. She is scheduled on Friday to attend the launch of a U.S.-Mexico partnership for breast cancer awareness and research (Katz, AP/Yahoo! News, 3/14).