Rights, AIDS Focus of First Lady's Africa Tour

During her tour of Botswana, South Africa and Tanzania, First Lady Laura Bush hopes to focus attention on AIDS assistance and awareness, and also on the empowerment of women.

Copyright © 2005 NPR. For personal, noncommercial use only. See Terms of Use. For other uses, prior permission required.

ED GORDON, host:

First lady Laura Bush is spending this week in Africa. She's on a goodwill mission promoting her husband's policy aimed at preventing the spread of AIDS and malaria. She's also pushing her own agenda, talking about expanding education and legal rights for women. In her first days on the trip, the first lady saw two very different approaches to slowing the spread of HIV. NPR's David Greene has been traveling with Mrs. Bush and has this report.

(Soundbite of people singing in foreign language)

DAVID GREENE reporting:

Fresh from a weekend safari with her daughters, first lady Laura Bush arrived in Cape Town. Her first stop was Khayelitsha, a downtrodden district of dilapidated shacks with tin roofs. She entered a room full of mothers. Many wore T-shirts that said `HIV positive.' Some held their babies. The mothers offered Mrs. Bush an emotional welcome.

(Soundbite of people singing in foreign language)

GREENE: The first lady was there to visit a program called Mothers To Mothers-to-Be. HIV-positive moms advise other women about how to avoid passing their virus on to their children. One of the mentors, Babalwa Mbono, promoted one way to prevent the spread of HIV in her country, where an estimated five million people are infected.

Ms. BABALWA MBONO (Mentor): And mostly in South Africa, HIV is still attracted only by e--sex, sex, sex, you know. That's why we teach people to condomize.

GREENE: But that's where Mbono and her guests from the United States don't agree. On her flight out of South Africa, Mrs. Bush put much more focus on abstinence as the way to stop the HIV virus from spreading.

Mrs. LAURA BUSH (First Lady): Let me say one thing. If you live in a continent where a quarter of the people have a sexually transmitted disease that's deadly, then abstinence had better be one of your concerns, one of your major concerns. You know, that--it's just a fact of life that that's the only way you know for sure you wouldn't get a deadly disease.

(Soundbite of people singing in foreign language)

GREENE: Mrs. Bush landed next in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania. The nation is nearly half Muslim. Extremists there exploded a bomb at the US Embassy seven years ago. But yesterday, exuberant children danced and played instruments for her at several locations. Her primary stop was at an AIDS clinic run by the local archdiocese and Cardinal Polycarp Pengo.

Cardinal POLYCARP PENGO: It may be asked, why should a religious institution such as the Catholic Church get so much involved in the problem of HIV-AIDS?

GREENE: `The answer,' Cardinal Pengo said, `is that the church will get to the root of the AIDS problem.' In the United States, critics of the president say he and his conservative allies have funneled too much AIDS prevention money to programs in Africa that stress abstinence and question the effectiveness of condoms. Yesterday the first lady delivered some news to Cardinal Pengo's program known as PASADA.

Mrs. BUSH: We believe the best way to provide services is through organizations like PASADA that have deep ties to the community and provide help person-to-person. I am pleased to announce that the United States will strengthen our partnership with PASADA, providing an additional $500,000 from the emergency plan over this year and the next.

GREENE: The first lady has increased her foreign travel and her exposure to some tough issues around the world.

Mrs. BUSH: You're also telling some members of the American press...

GREENE: Her final stop on this tour is Rwanda. Mrs. Bush says she wants to call on leaders to keep talking about what led to mass genocide there a decade ago. David Greene, NPR News, traveling with the first lady in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania.

GORDON: This is NPR News.

Copyright © 2005 NPR. All rights reserved. No quotes from the materials contained herein may be used in any media without attribution to NPR. This transcript is provided for personal, noncommercial use only, pursuant to our Terms of Use. Any other use requires NPR's prior permission. Visit our permissions page for further information.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by a contractor for NPR, and accuracy and availability may vary. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Please be aware that the authoritative record of NPR's programming is the audio.

Comments

 

Please keep your community civil. All comments must follow the NPR.org Community rules and terms of use, and will be moderated prior to posting. NPR reserves the right to use the comments we receive, in whole or in part, and to use the commenter's name and location, in any medium. See also the Terms of Use, Privacy Policy and Community FAQ.