TONIGHT'S FOCUS: Many people were surprised when President Bush announced during his last State of the Union speech that he would ask Congress to devote $15 billion to combat AIDS in Africa and the Caribbean. This week, the president is again focusing on Africa, as he becomes the first Republican President to travel to sub-Saharan Africa. But can the president's initiative really make a dent in the enormity of this pandemic? Is there a glimmer of hope in this bleak story? Tonight we'll show you one.
It is hard to grasp the enormity of the devastation of AIDS in Africa. There are approximately 30 million people infected with HIV in Africa. But think for a moment about the smallest victims: it is estimated that 3 million children are living with HIV/AIDS in Africa; 10 million children are estimated to have been orphaned by the disease.
President Bush surprised many when he announced in his State of the Union that he would ask Congress to pledge $15 billion over five years to prevent and treat AIDS in Africa and the Caribbean. The initiative was signed into law last month, with $3 billion targeted as the first installment, although only $2 billion is in the Bush budget next year for the entire global AIDS effort.
Nevertheless, AIDS activists welcome the new law and the president's highlighting of this issue. But what will this effort really be able to accomplish for the millions of infected people and the millions more who are likely to be infected?
Tonight we look at one African country that has made huge strides in coping with its AIDS crisis. Uganda, once struggled under the domination of dictator Idi Amin. Today, Uganda has escaped that crisis and appears to be turning the tide against AIDS. Some 15 percent of Uganda's population was once estimated to have HIV or AIDS. Today, that figure has been reduced to approximately 5 percent.
Is Uganda's approach a model for other nations? Perhaps. But this is where U.S. politics can complicate matters. Uganda's program of AIDS prevention focuses on a policy called "ABC," which stands for abstinence, be faithful, and if you can't do the first two things, use condoms. ABC. But for many of President Bush's conservative Christian supporters, American dollars should stop at abstinence.
Nightline's Michel Martin will report tonight on the Bush Administration's AIDS in Africa policy and the ongoing debate about how to spend the money. How much for prevention? How much for treatment? And what kind of prevention policies should be supported?
ABC's David Wright will report from Uganda, which President Bush will visit himself on Friday. In a place where just about everyone you meet has lost one or more loved ones to AIDS, you will find a country that is truly at war with a disease. And while it continues to be a devastating war, it may be winning.
And finally, Michel Martin has an interview with Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni. For nearly 20 years, he has made combating AIDS not just a priority but a national crusade.
We hope you'll join us.
Sara Just and the Nightline Staff ABCNEWS Washington bureau