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Carla Bruni – Sarcozy, the French First Lady, visited one of the poorest countries in the world last week as a Global Ambassador for Protection of Mothers and Children Against AIDS – Burkina Faso in West Africa.

A year after her marriage to President Nicolas Sarkozy brought her into the role of First Lady, Bruni had said she had decided to “do something useful,” signing on with the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria last December as its first formal celebrity envoy.

In the past year, Bruni’s approval ratings have risen to more than double those of her husband the President. After the initial condemnation by the French, who criticized the public and glitzy nature of their romance, things have turned in her favor.

The First Lady is planning to use some of her personal fortune to start the ‘Carla Bruni- Sarkozy Foundation’. It will finance scholarships for underprivileged young people.

In Ouagadougou on Wednesday last week, Bruni toured an out-patient hospital where patients are tested and treated for HIV. The most significant moment came when she stepped into a stark room with dirty walls, with four severely malnourished babies, two of whom were HIV Positive.

Carla Bruni-Sarkozy said that she was determined to help end the stigma that still surrounds the disease that ended her own brother’s life. “I think I can take part in the de-stigmatization of this disease which is still, unfortunately, associated with shame and exclusion,” she told a group of reporters who had traveled to Burkina Faso to cover her one-day visit on 11th February 2009.

She met with women and children living with HIV at a special hospital and also toured a pre-natal clinic, as well as attending a gathering of Burina Faso’s country coordinating mechanism, which brings together government health authorities, non-governmental organizations, Civil Society and people living with HIV/AIDS.

The First Lady told reporters that she wanted to be more than just a figurehead. “The function of ambassador can be handled in an abstract way where one is not in contact with real people.” I have no wish to treat this role as an ambassador in a superficial manner. I do not want to do it on surface but in depth," she added.

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