HHS Secretary Mike Leavitt and several senior U.S. health officials on Friday are scheduled to leave for an official visit to Africa to highlight programs funded by the President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief and the President's Malaria Initiative, VOA News reports. Leavitt and the officials will visit Mozambique, Rwanda, South Africa and Tanzania during the 10-day trip. Bill Steiger, director of the Office of Global Health Affairs at HHS, said Leavitt will be looking "specifically at what [HHS] is doing in support of major presidential initiatives," including PEPFAR and PMI.

"Our indications are that things are going extremely well with both of the programs," Steiger said. He added that the "achievements have been extraordinary in a relatively short amount of time ... and the number of people we have on treatment -- over a million Africans on antiretroviral treatment because of the president's plan -- the number of people who have benefited from the President's Malaria Initiative -- more than six million people helped with bed nets and indoor spraying and new medications -- are, we think, a great example of the successful partnership that the United States has with African governments, nongovernmental organizations, faith-based groups and community groups as well" (Butty, VOA News, 8/17).

Leavitt will begin his tour on Sunday in South Africa, BuaNews/AllAfrica reports. The American Embassy in Pretoria, South Africa, on Friday said he will observe the integration of biomedical research with ongoing HIV prevention, care and treatment programs in communities nationwide. He also will meet with government and civil society officials, including those from faith-based organizations, and visit urban hospitals, rural health clinics, programs for orphans and schools.

"On behalf of the American people, the president has made unprecedented commitments to fighting HIV/AIDS and other major health threats in Africa," Leavitt said, adding, "I am excited to visit" PEPFAR and PMI programs "to see, firsthand, how these programs are working in communities to improve lives" (Tshwane, BuaNews/AllAfrica, 8/17).

Leavitt will be accompanied by Ambassador Mark Dybul, who serves as the U.S. global AIDS coordinator and administers PEPFAR; USAID's Assistant Administrator for Global Health Kent Hill; U.S. Malaria Coordinator Tim Ziemer; CDC Director Julie Gerberding; Roger Glass, director of NIH's Fogarty International Center; and Carol Thompson, deputy assistant secretary of state for African affairs (HHS release, 8/15).

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