By BEN FELLER
The Associated Press
Monday, December 1, 2008; 1:57 PM
WASHINGTON -- Marking World AIDS Day, President George W. Bush said Monday that his presidential initiative on the deadly disease has already met its goal of treating 2 million people in sub-Saharan Africa.
When the administration launched the President's Emergency Plan For AIDS Relief in 2003, the goal was to support 2 million people with lifesaving antiretroviral treatment in five years.
"I'm pleased to announce that we have exceeded that goal early," Bush said standing with first lady Laura Bush on the North Lawn of the White House decorated with a giant red ribbon to mark the occasion. "The American people through PEPFAR are supporting lifesaving treatment for more than 2 million people around the world."
Bush's efforts against AIDS, particularly in the poorest parts of the world, earned praise from his successor. President-elect Barack Obama said he plans to continue Bush's campaign after he takes office in January.
"I salute President Bush for his leadership in crafting a plan for AIDS relief in Africa and backing it up with funding dedicated to saving lives and preventing the spread of the disease," Obama said in a videotaped message to the Saddleback Civil Forum on Global Health. "And my administration will continue this critical work to address the crisis around the world."
Obama's video appearance before the event in Washington followed Bush's in-person attendance.
When the president's program began, only 50,000 people living with HIV in all of sub-Sahara Africa were receiving antiretroviral treatment, he said. In addition, the U.S. has supported care for more than 10 million people around the world who are affected by HIV, including more than 4 million orphans and vulnerable children.
"More than 237,000 babies have been born HIV free, thanks to the support of the American people for programs to prevent mothers from passing the virus on to their children," Bush said.