POZlife

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Laura Bush Presses AIDS Fight In Africa

Posted by pozlife on June 26, 2007

 


by The Associated Press

Posted: June 26, 2007 – 1:00 pm ET 

(Dakar) U.S. first lady Laura Bush picked vegetables and handed out mosquito nets in Senegal on Tuesday to emphasize that fighting AIDS in Africa also means tackling some of the continent’s even more widespread afflictions – malnutrition and malaria.

“It’s often overlooked that one of the essential things in the treatment of AIDS or HIV is good nutrition,” she said after touring a garden whose produce is used to supplement the meals of AIDS patients at a Dakar hospital.

Bush gave mosquito nets to AIDS patients as a doctor explained that insect-borne malaria – the biggest killer in Senegal – is even more dangerous for those who are HIV positive.

Bush and her daughter Jenna are on a four-nation African tour in which the first lady is expected to focus on how the U.S. can help a poverty-stricken continent provide health care and economic opportunity. Laura Bush is also visiting Mozambique, Zambia and Mali on her third trip to Africa.

They were accompanied on Tuesday’s visit by Senegal’s first lady, Viviane Wade, and her daughter. The four women picked eggplants and kale at the Fann Hospital garden. AIDS patients at the center are instructed on how the different vegetables can boost their nutrition, and are allowed to sell excess produce for income.

Malnutrition is a serious problem in Senegal and the surrounding region, where poverty often determines food choices. In some parts of West Africa, fruits and vegetables disappear during the dry time of year and diabetes is becomingly increasingly common in the region.

Last month, President George W. Bush called on Congress to authorize an additional $30 billion (euro22.3 billion) to fight AIDS in Africa, a figure that would double the U.S. commitment to the continent. The current program, which provided $15 billion (euro11 billion) over five years, expires in September 2008.

The U.S. president’s Emergency Program for AIDS Relief has supported treatment for 1.1 million people in 15 countries, he said in calling for the program’s renewal. His wife did not discuss how the additional funds should be targeted.

The AIDS garden and the mosquito net program have both been recipients of U.S. funding. The U.S. government has allocated US$16.7 million to anti-malarial programs in Senegal this year, and plans to continue at a similar level through 2010.

“We just eradicated malaria in the United States in about 1950. We know malaria can be eradicated, and so we stand with you as you try to eradicate malaria in Senegal,” Laura Bush said.

Still, some international organizations have complained that President Bush has only truly committed to maintaining current funding levels at a time when the crisis is growing.

David Bryden, of the Global AIDS Alliance lobbying group, said that the U.S. House of Representatives has already approved more than US$5.4 billion in AIDS spending next year – a level which would about equal the president’s proposal over five years.

“If the Congress accepts his proposal it would be a disaster, because the epidemic is expanding,” Bryden said.

Still, West Africa generally has a lower prevalence of AIDS than eastern and southern Africa, and Senegal is often held up as an example that the disease has not doomed the continent.

The country has one of the lowest rates in the region. A range of reasons have been given, including an organized education effort by the government, a strong culture of conservative Muslim values, a tradition of male circumcision and the simple geographic distance from the southern African countries where AIDS first took hold.

In Senegal, the AIDS debate often takes a back seat to more pressing questions of crushing poverty and a lack of jobs. The former French colony is one of the poorest countries in the world and thousands of its young men risk their lives annually on fishing boats bound for Europe.

Source: Gay News From 365Gay.com

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