More US action to address the global pandemic, AIDS is needed, said George W. Bush, who as president was widely praised for his efforts to combat AIDS in Africa.
"No national security strategy is complete in the long run without promoting global health, political freedom and economic progress," the former US president wrote in a Washington Post opinion piece to mark World AIDS Day.
AdvertisementBush touted his own efforts to address the disease, particularly in sub-Saharan Africa, where the number of people receiving treatment has climbed from 50,000 to nearly four million since 2003.
"I firmly believe it has served American interests to help prevent the collapse of portions of the African continent. But this effort has done something more: it has demonstrated American character and beliefs," he wrote.
Noting that he was "happily out of the political business," Bush nevertheless urged Congress to continue his work to fight the disease.
"A thousand pressing issues come with each new day. But there are only a few that you will want to talk about in retirement with your children," he wrote.
"The continuing fight against global AIDS is something for which America will be remembered."
Bush's foreign policy legacy, largely defined by ongoing wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, remains deeply controversial, but his contribution to making life-saving drugs available in poor countries is widely praised by experts.
During his two terms, the United States pumped nearly 19 billion dollars into fighting AIDS in poor countries.
In 2002, Bush helped launch the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, to which the United States is the biggest single contributor.
The following year he set up the President's Emergency Plan For AIDS Relief (PEPFAR), focusing on 15 countries, mainly in Africa, which has led to an even more ambitious 39-billion-dollar program running from 2009 to 2013.