(05-30-2003) Bono: A Dollar A Day To Fight AIDS - Electronic Telegraph * - U2 Feedback

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Old 05-30-2003, 09:01 AM   #1
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(05-30-2003) Bono: A Dollar A Day To Fight AIDS - Electronic Telegraph *


It takes only a dollar a day to stop an African dying of Aids
By Bono

The facts about Aids in the poorest countries especially those in Africa are now clearly in focus. They show not just an unprecedented humanitarian tragedy, but also a clear and present danger to the wealthy member nations of the Group of Eight (G8) elite.

In Africa today, 9,500 people will contract HIV, and 6,500 people will lose their lives to Aids, dying for want of medications that we take for granted. When they die, they take with them their earning power, their human capital - and they leave behind their children.

Unless we, as an international community, go to war against this killer, there will be at least 25 million Aids orphans in Africa by the end of this decade.

When the G8 meet in Evian this weekend, they must not only focus on the threat of terrorism. They must also define a historic response to a plague of biblical proportions that is spreading on what historians and the West's critics will note is our "watch".

Lord of the Flies syndrome is emerging: children bringing up children. It's hard not to be evangelical about the facts. It's hard for the heart not to be moved by the immense loss of lives. It's hard for the head not to see the security implications of the destruction of the African family, African economies, African hopes.

Though the September 11 hijackers were mostly wealthy Saudis, they took refuge in the failed state of Afghanistan. There may be 10 potential Afghanistans in Africa. The American Secretary of State, Colin Powell, has warned that Aids presents a graver threat to global security and the world's stability than terrorism.

It does not have to be this way. Medicines can halve the chance of a mother giving HIV to her child. Anti-retroviral drugs produce something called the "Lazarus effect": a patient can go from death's door back to work within three months. That's quite a return on a dollar-a-day investment, which is what those drugs now cost us at best world prices.

At a time when there is a lot of suspicion in developing countries at Western motives, these drugs are the best of the West. They have the potential not just to transform lives and communities, but also to transform the image of the West into a benign and just one.

When Bob Geldof and I met Tony Blair last week, he promised that Britain and the G8 would do more to lead the war on Aids. America has stepped up and offered $15 billion over five years. Each year, $1 billion of this will go through the Global Fund to Fight Aids, Tuberculosis and Malaria if the rest of the donor nations match the sum 2:1.

Yes, indeed, America is the leading contributor to this multilateral, UN-backed mechanism. The other G8 leaders should put aside their surprise and take full advantage. To leverage $1 billion, the rest of the rich nations, led by the G8, must find another $2 billion. This coalition of the willing would then have raised $3 billion and, though more is required, this would be a major step towards the total needed to fight Aids and the related illnesses of TB and malaria.

I understand that many Western countries face relative economic hardship and growing deficits. But failure to invest now will leave us with a moral deficit and our children with the consequences of a global security deficit.

There is a decency in Middle England, a glue of civility that gave birth to the movement that abolished slavery, that campaigned for and won universal suffrage and that led the international campaign for debt relief, Jubilee 2000, in which I am so proud to have played a part.

As British citizens continue to campaign for deeper debt relief and fairer international trade rules, we must also focus on the need for more resources to fight and win the war on Aids. The total required to beat Aids, TB and malaria is 10 billion a year from the international community. The British contribution should be five to 10 per cent of this total. This is a lot of money.

But is it too much to help stop 3.5 million African Aids deaths a year, care for Africa's 13 million Aids orphans, prevent a staggering 30 million people from contracting HIV? I don't think so and, more important, I don't think most British citizens think so.

We know that balanced programmes of prevention care and treatment are effective. Donor aid helped reduce HIV prevalence in Uganda from more than 15 per cent of the adult population to five per cent and in Senegal helped keep prevalence low, at less than two per cent.

In crude financial terms, this is an extraordinary return on investment. The longer we take, the more expensive the cost becomes - measured in millions of lives and many tens of billions of dollars.

This is precisely the kind of challenge that the G8 should have been set up to address and decisively resolve. Every G8 summit is historic. Expectations for this one are being carefully lowered, riven as it is with post-Iraq tensions.

But we cannot allow this war, the war on Aids, to go unfinanced and leaderless, and the world's poor to be left out again as our leaders engage in acts of pique and spite. The fall-out from the Iraq war cannot be allowed to include letting the poor fall out of the picture.

Indeed, that is precisely why the G8 must give the lead - to prove that the West is genuine in its concern and can act on it with decisiveness and - above all - with unity.

I'm in the business of making music; I know about screaming crowds. Tony Blair is in the business of making history.

I'm convinced that, if he can persuade the G8 to stand before the world's media in Evian and declare that Africa's Aids epidemic is an emergency, and must be treated as such, with serious financial and other new commitments, people watching around the world will cast aside their cynicism, stand up, cheer and volunteer to help.

Mr Blair is in a unique position in history and in his career. He can broker this deal. Millions of lives and the security of all our futures depend on it.

Bono is the lead singer of U2 and founder of DATA (www.datadata.org)

Copyright of Telegraph Group Limited 2003.
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