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Former U.S. first lady commends fight against AIDS

07-27-2012 06:40 BJT

WASHINGTON, July 26 (Xinhua) -- Former U.S. first lady Laura Bush on Thursday commended the positive strides the world has made in recent years against HIV/AIDS.

To the applause of 20,000 activists, researchers and other participants at the 19th International AIDS Conference, the wife of former U.S. president George W. Bush spoke about the positive effects of giving billions of U.S. dollars to fight the deadly disease across the globe.

However, while new drugs have enabled people with the disease to live longer than ever, she said women are dying of cervical cancer.

She pledged that the Pink Ribbon, Red Ribbon campaign led by the George W. Bush Institute will provide cervical cancer screenings for women in developing countries, who are particularly susceptible to the disease.

Thirty-four million people are living with AIDS worldwide and last year nearly two million died from the disease, according to UN statistics. AIDS often weakens the immune system and leaves victims susceptible to other diseases, such as cervical cancer.

Her talk comes on the heels of recent trip to Africa, where the former first couple spent their July 4 week, with George Bush helping to renovate a cervical cancer clinic.

The trip was the former president's third to Africa since leaving the White House. While in office, Bush launched the President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief, or PEPFAR, which is now a decade old. The plan, which gave 15 billion U.S. dollars over five years, is considered the largest chunk of U.S. money allocated to combat any disease in recent memory.

PEPFAR is not without its critics, however, and sex workers have blasted a provision in the plan that requires organizations receiving U.S. funds for combating AIDS to espouse an anti- prostitution policy.

In recent days, the former president, who left office with a dismally low U.S. popularity rating over his handling of the Iraq war, received accolades from former critics.

In an interview Tuesday with ABC News and Yahoo!'s Power Players, rock star Elton John said Bush has done much to spread HIV/AIDS awareness, pointing to PEPFAR's work in Africa.

The rock icon previously described Bush as the worst thing that ever happened to the U.S.

The Bush couple have also decided to give up politics and the former president said he will not be attending this year's Republican convention, despite a November election that is expected to be one of the most heated in recent memory. The couple prefers to build off of the PEPFAR legacy and continue their anti- AIDS work.

"We're out of politics, but we're still interested in policy and, and global health, obviously," Laura Bush said in an interview with ABC News published Wednesday.

Editor:James |Source: Xinhua

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