Philippe Wojazer/Reuters/Landov
February 12, 2009 08:25 AM

It’s very far from fashion runways, the boulevards of Paris, or from the Presidential palace, but in her first solo official voyage as France’s first lady, Carla Bruni-Sarkozy announced herself “extremely encouraged” by what she saw in a West African AIDS clinic today.

Speaking after an emotional visit to a pediatric clinic in Ouagadougou, the capital of Burkina Faso, Bruni-Sarkozy told reporters, she was “surprised by the optimism,” she’d found in a country that, while ranked as the world’s third poorest, has dramatically reduced HIV infections over the past decade.

She met with Burkino Faso’s President Blaise Compaore and his wife, Chantal, during her 24 hour voyage, as well as toured a clinic and met with women and children under treatment.

“I know they have done a tremendous job but I was surprised by the optimism. I didn’t imagine the situation to be this good, the personnel so strong,” Bruni-Sarkozy said after touring the CHU Yalgado, a facility which treats 6,000 HIV patients.

The visit marks the inauguration of Bruni-Sarkozy’s Ambassador role since she accepted it last November from Geneva-based Global Fund, which operates programs through public-private partnerships in 136 countries. The issue is a close personal one to Bruni-Sarkozy, whose only brother, Virginio Bruni-Tedeschi, died of Aids in July 2006.

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