Peace Corps Commits 1,000 Additional Volunteers as part of Global AIDS Relief Package

WASHINGTON, D.C., May 27, 2003 - In addition to over 2,100 Peace Corps volunteers currently working on HIV/AIDS projects, the Peace Corps committed to an additional 1,000 volunteers to fight HIV/AIDS as part of legislation signed into law today by President Bush. The new law, H.R. 1298, the U.S. Leadership Against HIV/AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria Act of 2003, will direct $15 billion over the next five years to fight HIV/AIDS abroad, focusing on 14 African and Caribbean countries where HIV/AIDS is heavily concentrated.

President Bush signed the bipartisan legislation into law today during a ceremony at the Department of State and recognized Peace Corps volunteers for their work abroad. The President received multiple standing ovations as he addressed the audience and stated that he viewed fighting HIV/AIDS as a “moral duty.”

“Peace Corps volunteers are making an impact at the local level, and by committing an additional 1,000 volunteers, Peace Corps will be able to enhance a number of programs and expand HIV/AIDS projects in current Peace Corps countries. The expansion includes additional volunteers working in targeted African countries, as well as those in the Caribbean. Also, more educational material, written in local languages, will be developed for volunteers to use in their communities,” stated Peace Corps Director Gaddi H. Vasquez.

Peace Corps currently has more than 2,100 volunteers working on HIV/AIDS activities. Peace Corps programs in two countries, Botswana and Swaziland, are devoted entirely to the pandemic. In addition, Peace Corps is exploring partnerships with other Federal agencies in order to further expand its efforts as part of the President’s initiative.

The Crisis Corps program, in which former Peace Corps volunteers return to service for a limited period, will also commit volunteers to fight the disease. These volunteers will lend their expertise to non-governmental organizations and government agencies worldwide for assignments of up to six months. The Peace Corps will enhance the capability of volunteers and their communities to obtain and exchange information about the latest innovations in public health education, behavior change, and delivery of services to people living with HIV/AIDS through the use of information communication technology.

Since 1961, more than 168,000 volunteers have served in the Peace Corps, working in such diverse fields as education, health and HIV/AIDS education and awareness, information technology, business development, the environment, and agriculture. Peace Corps Volunteers must be U.S. citizens and at least 18 years of age. Peace Corps service is a two-year commitment.

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