U2 frontman and humanitarian Bono spoke last night in New York in an effort to bolster his campaign to continue the Bush administration's financial support of the fight against AIDS in Africa. "AIDS is still is a problem in the U.S. and Europe, but what's going on in Africa is a different thing completely," he said during at the UNA-USA Global Leadership Awards Dinner at the Sheraton Hotel. "It's an emergency."
Bono, who in 2002 founded the AIDS awareness organization DATA (Debt, AIDS, Trade, Africa -- www.data.org), presented the UNA-USA Global Humanitarian Award to Kofi Annan, Secretary-General of the United Nations. Speakers at the event included Secretary of Health and Human Services Tommy Thompson, Executive Director of the AIDS Support Organization (TASO) Dr. Alex Godwin Coutino, MTV Chairman and CEO Thomas Freston, and Ted Turner, Chairman of the United Nations Foundation.
Bono urged politicians to participate in the healing of a continent that is in dire need of assistance from the United States. "Seven thousand Africans are dying every day of a preventable, treatable disease. And we have the drugs," he said. Bono went on to stress the crucial role the United States could play in combating the AIDS epidemic, which killed 2.3 million Africans in 2001. "Right now, there's a problem in the world the way people perceive us in the West. With these drugs, we can change the way they see us, we can change lives, transform communities. I say to the President and to corporate America, 'See these drugs as advertisements for you. Paint them red, white and blue if that's what you want. But get them to the people who need them and the way the United States will be perceived would change.'"
But Bono admitted that success would not come easily. "We're looking for $3 billion this year for an entire continent," he said. "There's people in the administration that actually want to give us what we want. Politicians like to sign checks, but they don't like to cash 'em. I'm in the business of cashing checks."