US president George W Bush said today he is eager to sign legislation that triples money to fight Aids and other diseases around the world – an initiative that has won the US President praise from some of his harshest critics.
In a rare case of cooperation between the White House and the Democratic-controlled Congress, members voted this week to significantly increase US assistance to fight Aids, malaria and tuberculosis around the world.
It gave renewed life to a programme credited with saving and prolonging millions of lives in Africa alone.
The 303-115 vote in the House on Thursday sent the five-year, US$48bn (€31bn) plan to the president.
“I thank members of Congress from both sides of the aisle for working with my administration to pass this important bill, and I will be honoured to sign it into law next week,” President Bush said in his weekly radio address.
President Bush first floated the idea of a campaign against the scourge of Aids in his 2003 State of the Union speech.
The current US$15bn (€9.6bn) dollar act, which expires at the end of September, has helped bring lifesaving anti-retroviral drugs to some 1.7 million people and supported care for nearly seven million.
The President’s Emergency Plan for Aids Relief, known as PEPFAR, has won plaudits from some of the president’s critics both in Congress and around the world.
While some conservative Republicans questioned the sharp spending increase, others said the US aid had important security as well as moral implications and gave a needed boost to America’s reputation abroad.
PEPFAR has focused on nations in sub-Saharan Africa that have been devastated by Aids, but it has also provided assistance in the Caribbean and other areas hit by the pandemic now affecting some 33 million worldwide.
Even with advances in treating the disease, there are still about 7,000 new HIV infections every day around the world.