( LatWp ) - If three words could sum up President Bush's foreign policy legacy, they would be: Iraq, Iraq, Iraq. But if first lady Laura Bush has her way, historians also will remember the president's determination to fight deadly diseases in Africa and other parts of the developing world.
This month, President Bush called on Congress to double to $30 billion over the next five years the funding for the President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief, or PEPFAR. He has also pledged $1.2 billion in a five-year effort to cut in half the number of people killed by malaria, which claims more than 1 million lives a year, mostly of children.
Laura Bush will be highlighting those programs on her third visit to Africa. The five-day trip, which began Monday, will take her to Senegal, Mozambique, Zambia and Mali. Although PEPFAR and other international aid programs are saving thousands of lives, the reality is that HIV's growth in Africa is outpacing treatment.
``It does seem like an insurmountable problem, but the fact is you can measure progress, because you can see how many people actually get treatment,'' the first lady said in an interview with CNN's Kiran Chetry. She added that mother-to-child transmission of the disease has been all but eradicated in the United States, success that can be duplicated elsewhere.
One of the big problems in battling AIDS, in Africa and beyond, is the stigma that still accompanies the disease, she said. ``It's something we have to fight and something that we have to talk about,'' she told American Urban Radio's April Ryan.
Bush said she hopes her trip helps people understand that HIV is no longer tantamount to a death sentence. ``If you go on anti-retrovirals, you can lead a healthy life,'' she said. The sojourn also should show U.S. taxpayers the president's support of pressing humanitarian causes, she added. ``We want the American people to know, because it's their taxpayer money that's doing it.''