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Last Updated: Wednesday, 28 May, 2003, 11:04 GMT 12:04 UK
Bush signs $15bn Aids-fighting plan
The legislation needs to be approved annually by Congress
US President George W Bush has signed an emergency plan to help fight Aids in Africa and the Caribbean, describing measures against the disease as among the most urgent needs of the modern world.

At a signing ceremony at the State Department, Mr Bush said Aids was filling graveyards, creating orphans and leaving millions in a desperate fight for their own lives across Africa.

The $15bn plan has come under fire because a third of the money spent on prevention must be used for projects promoting abstinence rather than safer sex.

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

However, surprising aid and family planning organisations, rock star and poverty campaigner Bob Geldof has praised the Bush administration's Africa initiative.

"You'll think I'm off my trolley when I say this, but the Bush administration is the most radical - in a positive sense - in its approach to Africa since Kennedy," Mr Geldof, who organised the 1985 Live Aid fund raising concert for Ethiopia, told Britain's Guardian newspaper.

In contrast to the European Union's "pathetic and appalling" response, Sir Bob said neo-conservatives and religious right-wingers who surround the US president are proving unexpectedly helpful.

Former president Bill Clinton had not helped Africa much, despite his high-profile visits and apparent empathy with the downtrodden, Mr Geldof said.

'No time'

Mr Bush has said his country had a moral duty to act - and he called on Europe, Canada and Japan to follow Washington's example.

Woman patient with Aids
Drugs for treating HIV-Aids could become affordable

"I will remind them that time is not on our side. Every day of delay means 8,000 more Aids deaths in Africa and 14,000 more infections," Mr Bush said.

The legislation will nearly triple US contributions towards fighting Aids, but it must still be approved annually by the US Congress.

The Director of a joint United Nations programme on HIV and Aids, Peter Piot, praised the initiative, saying the money could dramatically reduce deaths from the disease that has killed more than 20 million people.

"For the first time, there is a concerted global effort to close the treatment gap that denies lifesaving HIV medicines to 95% of the people living with Aids around the world," Dr Piot said.

However, he said, even with the new US money spending on Aids was insufficient.

The new package recommends that 55% of direct aid should go to treatment programmes, 20% to prevention, 15% to care for those dying of Aids and 10% to children orphaned by the disease.

The stipulation that a proportion of the money going towards prevention must be used for projects promoting abstinence rather than safer sex was introduced to appease US conservatives.

The BBC's Gillian Ni Cheallaigh
"[Bush] said he was answering what he called his country's 'moral duty' to act"

Q&A: Aids in Africa
20 Feb 03  |  Health
Geldof: Ethiopia aid 'pathetic'
27 May 03  |  Africa
US Senate approves Aids bill
16 May 03  |  Americas
US triples Aids spending
02 May 03  |  Americas
Bush Aids plan to include condoms
30 Jan 03  |  Americas

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