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Ex-Eli Lilly exec named global AIDS czar

Randall Tobias is a former chairman and CEO of pharmaceutical giant Eli Lilly and Co.
Randall Tobias is a former chairman and CEO of pharmaceutical giant Eli Lilly and Co.

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Mayo Clinic

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- President Bush tapped a former pharmaceutical executive Wednesday to coordinate his administration's $15 billion program to combat AIDS in Africa and the Caribbean.

If confirmed by the Senate, Randall Tobias -- the former chairman and chief executive officer of Eli Lilly and Co. -- would head up the administration's efforts to bring more medical workers, medicine and training to those countries hit hard by the virus.

"Millions of lives depend on the success of this effort, and we are determined to succeed," Bush said in announcing his selection of Tobias at the White House.

AIDS, Tobias said, has already killed 20 million people in sub-Saharan Africa, where it is the No. 1 cause of death. He said he would approach his new job with "enthusiasm and with optimism."

The president will travel to Africa next week, and Bush said he will highlight his AIDS initiative on that trip.

The Senate voted in May to approve the global initiative, which will direct $15 billion to fight AIDS abroad over the next five years. It will concentrate on 14 countries in Africa and the Caribbean that have been devastated by the disease.

The Bush plan is modeled after a program in Uganda known as the ABC approach: abstinence, being faithful in marriage and condoms, as the order in which people are told to conduct themselves to avoid contracting the deadly disease.

The AIDS infection rate has fallen dramatically in Uganda, and the percentage of pregnant women with HIV has been cut in half in parts of the country, according to the White House.

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