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Bush names former drug company chief as global AIDS coordinator

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Washington (dpa) - U.S. President George W. Bush on Wednesday named former pharmaceutical company executive Randall Tobias as his global coordinator in the fight against AIDS.

The former chairman and chief executive of drug giant Eli Lilly & Co. will run an ambitious 15-billion-dollar, five-year initiative to fight the killer disease in 14 African and Caribbean countries.

"Millions of lives depend on the success of this effort, and we are determined to succeed," said Bush. He called Tobias "a superb leader who knows a great deal about life-saving medicines and who knows how to get results."

Tobias, a major Republican party donor, according to The Washington Post, worked at Indiana-based Lilly for six years until 1998. Previously, he was vice chairman of telecom company AT&T.

Accepting the post, he said AIDS has already killed almost 20 million people in sub-Saharan Africa and without intervention will claim one quarter of the population there in the next decade.

Bush, who travels to Africa next week, again urged other nations to match the U.S. effort to combat the AIDS pandemic ravaging the continent.

Under the plan, he said, the U.S. will expand HIV testing, train health workers, build clinics, provide anti-retroviral drugs and set up a network to deliver them "to the farthest reaches of Africa, even by motorcycle or bicycle".

The initiative would also support abstinence-based prevention education and faith-based and community organizations that treat and care for people with HIV and AIDS.

Copyright 2003 dpa Deutsche Presse-Agentur GmbH

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