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Bush Announces Request for $30B, Five-Year Extension of PEPFAR

President Bush on Wednesday called on Congress to double current funding levels for the President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief to $30 billion for five years after the program's original mandate expires next year, the New York Times reports. PEPFAR directs an authorized $15 billion over five years for HIV/AIDS and tuberculosis primarily to 15 focus countries and provides funding to the Global Fund To Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria.

PEPFAR's original mandate is scheduled to expire in September 2008, and Bush's request would extend the program for an additional five years. Administration officials have said reauthorization of the program at $30 billion would increase the number of people receiving access to antiretroviral drugs through PEPFAR from 1.4 million to 2.5 million. Bush's announcement comes one week before leaders from the Group of Eight industrialized nations are scheduled to meet in Heiligendamm, Germany, for their 2007 summit.

"Once again, the generosity of the American people is one of the great untold stories of our time," Bush said on Wednesday, adding, "Our citizens are offering comfort to millions who suffer and restoring hope to those who feel forsaken". According to Bush, when he first took office, an "HIV diagnosis in Africa's poorest countries was usually a death sentence," adding that PEPFAR funding has "yielded the best possible return: saved lives."

Many international aid organizations, lawmakers and HIV/AIDS advocates applauded Bush's proposal, the Post reports. "With the energy and resources provided by PEPFAR and other programs, there has been impressive progress in the fight against HIV and AIDS worldwide, but the battle is far from won," Sen. Russell Feingold (D-Wis.), who chairs the Committee on Foreign Relation's Africa subcommittee, said, adding, "Right now, only a small percentage of those who need lifesaving drugs are receiving them, while millions more are contracting this preventa
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