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WASHINGTON (AP) — President Bush praised Congress on Friday for giving "the hope of life to millions" by voting to greatly increase U.S. spending against global AIDS. The challenge now, advocates said, is making sure those hopes aren't dashed.

The Senate early Friday, responding to an appeal Bush made in his State of the Union address in January, approved the spending of $15 billion over five years to stop the spread of AIDS and to help the 42 million people suffering from the deadly virus. The House has passed a nearly identical bill and is expected to speed the measure to the president's desk next week.

Supporters say the programs could prevent 7 million new infections, treat 2 million HIV-infected people with anti-retroviral drugs and care for 10 million sick people and AIDS orphans, mainly in Africa and the Caribbean.

The bill would also provide evidence of American commitment when Bush travels to Evian, France, on June 1-3 for a meeting of Western leaders — and prod those leaders to do more to fight AIDS worldwide.

But Bush, and Congress, must prove the U.S. commitment is real. The legislation authorizes $3 billion a year over five years, but not a penny would be spent until Congress approved the money in its annual budget appropriation.

Copyright © 2003 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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