President George W Bush on Wednesday signed a nearly $50-billion US aid package to combat the spread of HIV/AIDS in the developing world, more than tripling an initiative that was first championed by him at the start of his eight-year term in office.
The new funds, spread over five years, are intended to curb AIDS, malaria and tuberculosis epidemics that have struck the African continent and a number of other poor regions.
The legislation also repeals a 20-year-old US law that bars HIV- positive visitors and immigrants from being granted visas to the United States without a waiver from the Department of Health and Human Services, though the department will still have the power to block HIV carriers from entering.
"Today's legislation will help reduce HIV's deadly stigma and show the world that it is possible for people to 'live positively' with HIV/AIDS," the White House said in a statement announcing the signing.
Both the House of Representatives and the Senate approved the funding bill earlier in July, handing Bush one of the last major legislative victories of his presidency, which will come to an end in January.
The legislation extends and expands a $15-billion foreign aid programme that was first proposed by Bush and implemented in 2003.