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Clinton: U.S. Must Do More to Fight AIDS 'Plague


LAKE PLACID, N.Y. (Reuters) - President Clinton said on Saturday the United States must do more to combat the "plague" of AIDS around the world as he signed into law a bill boosting U.S. funding to fight the disease overseas.

"While we're making real progress in the fight against AIDS here at home, we have to do more to combat this plague around the world," Clinton said in his weekly radio address.

Clinton, who is on a weekend vacation with his family in Lake Placid, signed into law the "Global AIDS and Tuberculosis Relief Act of 2000," which authorizes the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) to spend $300 million in each of the next two years on global AIDS prevention.

Clinton, who is enjoying a private weekend and celebrating his 54th birthday in the Adirondacks on Saturday, signed the bill at the house of real estate developer Arthur Lussi, where the first family is staying. The only member of the Clinton entourage who ventured out early on Saturday was first dog Buddy, who was taken for a walk down Lake Placid's Main Street by a presidential aide.

The legislation provides $150 million for each of the next two years for a World Bank-administered fund to promote AIDS prevention, safe blood supplies, voluntary testing and counseling and measures to prevent mother-to-child transmission.

It also gives $50 million to the Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunization (GAVI), which funds vaccine research for infectious diseases including AIDS, and $10 million to the New York-based International AIDS Vaccine Initiative (IAVI), which finances research specifically for an AIDS vaccine.

The legislation provides the budget "authority" for the funds. But the Republican-led Congress must act through one of its 13 annual "appropriations" bills to set aside funding.

Still, Clinton hailed the bill as a step toward stopping the spread of the AIDS virus, which infects roughly 34 million people around the world -- about 24.5 million of whom are in Africa.

He noted that AIDS has become the leading cause of death in Africa and poses a growing threat elsewhere in the world, notably in Asia and in countries of the former Soviet Union.

"Fighting AIDS worldwide is not just the right thing to do, it's the smart thing," Clinton said. "In our tightly connected world, infectious disease anywhere is a threat to public health everywhere."

"AIDS threatens the economies of the poorest countries, the stability of friendly nations, the future of fragile democracies," said Clinton, who will visit Africa next week.

The legislation offers significantly more for USAID's AIDS programs -- $300 million -- than the $244 million the White House had asked for in February when Clinton submitted his annual budget for fiscal 2001, which begins on Oct. 1, 2000.

Rep. Barbara Lee, a California Democrat who was one of the bill's sponsors, hailed the president's signing it into law.

"Money saves lives. ... The AIDS pandemic will soon be the worst infectious disease in global history, surpassing even the bubonic plague," she said in a statement. "The good news is that unlike the bubonic plague, we can stop the spread of HIV/AIDS through education and prevention efforts."

Sandra Thurman, head of the White House Office of National AIDS Policy, said the administration would work with Congress to ensure its full AIDS request was passed, including $61 million for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and $10 million each for the Department of Labor and of Defense.

She also told reporters the AIDS crisis was most acute in Africa, where more than 5,000 people die from it each day.

"It's mind boggling," Thurman said. "What we see in Africa is just the tip of the iceberg."


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Information in this article was accurate in August 19, 2000. The state of the art may have changed since the publication date. This material is designed to support, not replace, the relationship that exists between you and your doctor. Always discuss treatment options with a doctor who specializes in treating HIV.