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Former U.S. President spearheading women's health issues in Africa

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)
July 7th, 2012
Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

While former U.S. President George W. Bush faces some often harsh criticism as commander in chief from those who claim he led the nation into unpopular wars and additional criticism from opponents who claim he initiated failed economic policies, he has taken on a new role as an advocate for women's health in Africa. Both he and his wife Laura Bush have recently opened a women's health clinic in Kabwe, Zambia.

LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - President Bush was in Africa to promote cervical cancer detection and treatment programs for Zambian women, many of whom are living with HIV. 

"We care because we believe that to whom much is given, much is required," Bush says. "And those of us, who live in America, live in the most blessed nation ever and therefore when we see suffering, we ought to act."

The former president has raised more than $85 million for cervical cancer programs, through his George W. Bush Center and other partner organizations. Bush says his goal is to build upon one of the great bipartisan achievements of his presidency.

In 2003, Bush's AIDS initiative was initially funded $15 billion-worth of anti-retroviral drugs and treatment to extend the lives of millions of Africans with HIV and AIDS.

Zambia currently has the second highest number of cervical cancer cases in the world. Many Zambian women infected with the disease are also living with HIV and have weakened immune systems.

"But the saddest thing of all is to know a lady's life has been saved from AIDS but died from cervical cancer," Bush said. "And so starting in Zambia, the Bush Center, along with our partners, are going to put on a cervical cancer crusade to save lives."

"He's a very nice person," Chanda says, who is the first patient at the clinic. Pronounced cancer-free by the clinicians there, Chanda says that "I thank him and I am wishing you [him] a happy life, a good life."

While Bush's presidency is mired in controversy in the U.S., in Zambia and much of Africa, he is remembered for saving lives. 

J. Stephen Morrison, director of the Health Policy Center at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, says that the former president is deserving of credit.  He says in 2003, Bush saw AIDS in Africa as a humanitarian disaster - that if left unchecked could destabilize the entire continent.

"When the president came forward and said, 'HIV/AIDS - we can save lives," Morrison says. "We can enhance lives. We can stabilize societies.'  It was with a very powerful ethical and moral rationale as much as it was about a security rationale."

Bush says he will continue to advocate for global health issues which for him, he says, are a labor of love.

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