WASHINGTON, June 23 - President Bush said Wednesday his administration would commit an additional $20 million to help patients waiting to get expensive drugs to combat HIV and AIDS.
"We're going to provide $20 million, effective today, to extend lifesaving drugs ... to the men and women who are waiting. In other words, there shouldn't be lines here. And we're going to deal with the lines," Bush said in a speech at the Greater Exodus Baptist Church in Philadelphia.
From the church, the president went to a fund-raiser for the Republican Party. Pennsylvania is considered one of the most important battleground states in the November presidential election.
Bush also announced that he would add Vietnam to the list of nations eligible to receive emergency funds as part of his five-year, $15 billion AIDS program approved by Congress last year.
Botswana, Ethiopia, Guyana, Haiti, Ivory Coast, Kenya, Mozambique, Namibia, Nigeria, Rwanda, South Africa, Tanzania, Uganda and Zambia were already on the list.
While China and India have larger populations with the virus than Vietnam, administration officials said the Southeast Asian nation is going to have more than a million people living with AIDS by the end of the decade, a nearly eightfold increase.
Critics said Bush and Congress have not provided the funds for the $15 billion program as quickly as it promised. Lawmakers appropriated $2.4 billion for fiscal year 2004 and are expected to provide $2.8 billion next fiscal year.
"The scientists and researchers who develop these drugs are some of the great humanitarian heroes of our time, and we thank them for their work and we will fund their work," Bush added.