America's Gift: Fighting HIV/AIDS in Uganda

60 Minutes Reports on PEPFAR, a U.S. Program That Has Helped Provide Treatment to Thousands

CBS All Access
This video is available on CBS All Access

As president, George W. Bush did something momentous that few of you may know about - something so momentous that it is saving millions of lives and generating good will for America around the world.

Millions of Africans who had been dying of AIDS are now living with AIDS, thanks to President Bush's program. The U.S. is providing pills to more than two million people with HIV/AIDS, people who could never afford them and who were condemned to die. The medicine not only saves their lives, it permits them to live full lives.

"60 Minutes" and correspondent Bob Simon went to Uganda, where AIDS has ravaged the country, killing more than a million people and where Dr. Peter Mugyenyi, a pioneer against AIDS, told us how grateful he is to Americans for saving his fellow Ugandans.

Full Segment: America's Gift
Web Extra: Helping Children with AIDS
Web Extra: Five Years Later, Life
Reach Out: Mbuya Parish
Mulago Hospital Complex
Baylor International Pediatric AIDS Initiative
Pepfar: President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief

"We thank, sincerely, the American people. They are the people who are saving lives. They are the people who can be proud that lives are being saved on this continent," Dr. Mugyenyi said.

Bush created the program in 2004 with the bi-partisan backing of Congress; last year, Congress raised the funding to about $7 billion a year for the next five years.

Dr. Mugyenyi has called this the greatest aid effort in modern times. "There has never been a rescue mission, a mission of mercy of this magnitude that has produced such magnanimous results," he explained.

He told us Africans now see America differently.

"The impression that people in Africa have of America is that America is no longer the world's policeman. It is now Africa's friend. What an image," he said.

"60 Minutes" met some exuberant looking children - every one of them has HIV or AIDS. They would all be dead or dying if it weren't for America. Now they're alive and thriving.

Viola is 13. Her mother died of AIDS and she was dying from it too until she began taking those drugs provided by the United States. We met Viola at her home where she lives with her aunt.

She has to take a lot of pills every day. Asked if she never forgets taking her medication, Viola said, "I can't forget."

"I think I can die," she said, after being asked what the consequence of forgetting might be.

Viola will be fine, but Dr. Sabrina Kitaka, a pediatrician, remembers all the children who died before America came to the rescue six years ago. She had 2,000 children who needed life-saving drugs, but only enough pills to treat 30 of them. So she sent home more than 1,900 children with only vitamins and hope, a false hope because all but the 30 chosen children died.

"You were, in fact, playing God," Simon remarked.

"But we had no choice," Dr. Kitaka explained.

No choice because she had no pills. Ed Bradley saw that when he came to Uganda ten years ago and talked to Mugyenyi when the situation looked hopeless.

"In bed after bed, Mugyenyi showed us patient after patient who couldn't afford drugs either to fight the virus or the diseases it brings. This man had arrived at the hospital two weeks earlier," Bradley said in his report.

Mugyenyi told Bradley it would cost $600 a month to treat this man and patients with the drugs they need.

But the doctor explained that the man made maybe $5 or $10 a month.

"Even after pooling their resources, his family didn't have the money for treatments. They decided to take him home to die," Bradley reported.

But today generic drugs have made AIDS pills much cheaper: treating one patient for a year used to cost more than $7,000; now, it's less than $300. As HIV destroys a person's immune system leading to AIDS, patients need powerful pills, antiretrovirals they're called, or miracle pills.