(12-05-2003) Bono: A Little Money Goes a Long Way to Fight AIDS, Poverty -- AFP *

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Apr 17, 2002
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Irish Rocker Bono Says a Little Money Goes a Long Way to Fight AIDS, Poverty

WASHINGTON (AFP) - U2 frontman Bono said he still hasn't found what he's looking for in terms of funding to fight poverty and AIDS, suggesting just a bit of money can make tremendous strides in helping needy people suffering from the disease, particularly in Africa.

Speaking to the Kaiser Family Foundation, a nonprofit health care philanthropy group here, the Irish rocker and activist expressed frustration with as-yet-unpassed bills tying up much-needed funding.

"The fire truck has arrived at the scene of the fire and we can't turn on the water," he lamented.

The US Congress has decided to appropriate up to 2.4 billion dollars for AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria in 2004 and has earmarked one billion dollars for the new Millennium Challenge Account, which aims to reward developing countries that bolster economic growth and ease poverty while fighting corruption and protecting human rights.

If allocated in full, the amount of US assistance to Africa would double in 2004, Bono noted. But the funding remains tied up as part of a larger appropriations package Congress will not tackle until January.

Bono, sporting his trademark tinted shades, said his frustration is not directed at President George W. Bush.

"In this area, he has really put his money where his mouth is," Bono said. But he noted: "It's not enough money, in our opinion."

Still, he said he found all of the US administration officials he has dealt with to be "incredibly truthful" and he stressed that, through debt cancellation and providing generic drugs, it was definitely possible to fight the scourge.

"They don't cost that much. We can do this," the Grammy Award-winning singer urged.

Every day in Africa, some 6,500 people die from complications stemming from AIDS, and 9,500 people contract the HIV virus, according to DATA, the Debt, AIDS, Trade, Africa group founded by Bono. And funding is a systemic problem, as more than 300 million people in sub-Saharan Africa--nearly half the population--survive on less than a dollar per day.

"AIDS, as an emergency, is like a cancer. It metastasizes," he said, noting that the longer the international community waits to act, the worse the situation will become and the more it will ultimately cost.

Asked what fueled his passion for the cause, Bono replied: "I'm Irish. I'm stubborn, quick to anger." He said he was particularly angered by stupidity, and "people are dying for the most stupid of reasons"--money.

"I don't think what we're here today to discuss is in any way fringe. I think it's at the very center of who we decide we are," he declared.

Some 42 million people worldwide were living with HIV and AIDS at the end of 2002, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation.
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