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Bush to seek $3.2 billion to fight AIDS

Associated Press

WASHINGTON – President Bush will ask Congress to provide $3.2 billion to combat AIDS in Africa and other poor regions, continuing the program’s gradual growth, senior administration officials said Thursday.

But in the 2006 budget he sends Congress next month, the president also plans to request much less than he originally promised for an aid program that helps countries adopting democratic reforms, lobbyists and congressional aides said.

The proposals come as record budget deficits are heaping pressure on federal spending. When Congress writes foreign aid legislation later this year, the two programs will have to compete against each other and other efforts to help U.S. allies.

Bush’s AIDS request will represent the latest step in his 2003 pledge to provide $15 billion over five years to combat the disease overseas. His proposal for 2006 was described by officials who spoke on condition of anonymity.

The government spent $1.6 billion to try preventing AIDS abroad and caring for its victims in the year Bush announced his initiative. Since then, funding has grown gradually to $2.8 billion for this year, with Congress at times providing more than the president requested.

The program aims most of its money at 15 poor countries – 12 in Africa, plus Haiti, Guyana and Vietnam. Some of it goes to an internationally administered fund that directs it to more than 100 nations and also combats tuberculosis and malaria.

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