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Last Updated: Friday, 2 May, 2003, 11:04 GMT 12:04 UK
US triples Aids spending
Woman patient with Aids
HIV/Aids has cut life expectancy by 20 years

United States lawmakers have voted to triple to $15bn spending on the fight against Aids in Africa and the Caribbean.

The money will pay for anti-viral medications for people already suffering from the disease and try to slow the spread of HIV over the next five years.

It was passed by a 375-41 vote following amendments by conservatives that put a greater emphasis on faith-based groups and sexual abstinence programs in fighting Aids.

Under an amendment proposed by Republican representatives Joseph Pitts and Henry Hyde, one-third of the funds will be spent on programs teaching abstinence until marriage.

President George W Bush promised to spend more on Aids/HIV in his State of the Union address in January.

Democrat representative for California Tom Lantos described the passing of the bill as a "grand humanitarian legislation".

Abortion question

However, conservatives backed down on the politically sensitive abortion issue.

The bill did not bar giving American tax dollars to Aids programmes run by international family planning organisations that promote abortion.

Facts and figures on the impact of HIV in sub-Saharan Africa

"The HIV/Aids pandemic is more than a humanitarian crisis," said Mr Hyde.

"Increasingly it's a threat to the security of the developed world."

The initiative focuses on 12 African countries - Botswana, Ivory Coast, Ethiopia, Kenya, Mozambique, Namibia, Nigeria, Rwanda, South Africa, Tanzania, Uganda and Zambia - as well as Guyana and Haiti in the Caribbean.

The funds will also help fight tuberculosis and malaria.

Aids has reportedly killed 25 million people - 8,500 a day in 2002.

By 2010 the death toll is likely to reach 80 million.

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