NEW YORK — On the same day that a U.N. "State of the World" study pronounced that AIDS is "rapidly becoming a young person's disease," Bono pressed for more funding to fight the disease at a U.N. dinner recognizing the humanitarian work of those fighting its spread.
"AIDS is still a problem in the U.S. and Europe, but what's going on in Africa and the rest of the world is a different thing," the U2 singer told MTV News on Wednesday. "It's an emergency. Seven thousand Africans are dying every day of a preventable, treatable disease — it's madness. There are jumbo loads of people falling out of the sky every day, and we have the drugs.
"Right now there's a problem with the way people perceive us in the West — America and Europe. With these drugs, we can change the way they see us because we can change lives and transform communities. I say to the president and I say to corporate America: Look, these drugs are advertisements for you. Paint them red, white and blue if that's what you want, but get them to the people who need them."
Bono stressed that young people who care about the spread of AIDS abroad can do something very real about it at home. "The thing about the MTV audience is it's an active one," he said. "If they can communicate to politicians that this is an important issue for them, the politicians are very, very nervous in an election year of what [young people] think of them."
In this year's State of the Union address, President Bush announced a $15 billion effort to combat the spread of AIDS in Africa and elsewhere. Bono said he hopes the administration will make good on that commitment, even despite the rising cost of reconstruction in Afghanistan and Iraq.
"Eighty-seven billion for two countries is a lot, but we're looking for $3 billion this year for a whole continent," he said "I know that there are people in this administration who want to do this and who want to give us what we want, but there are also other people who don't. I hope we prevail."
While U.S.-U.N. relations have chilled since Bush's decision to invade Iraq, U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan and U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services Tommy Thompson found themselves advocating a common cause at the United Nations Association of the USA awards dinner. The Global Leadership and Humanitarian Action Awards are presented to people — typically doctors, health-care workers and nongovernmental organizations — fighting the spread of AIDS abroad.