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Bono wants more spent on AIDS

Posted on Tuesday, September 16 @ 07:53:47 CEST by Macphisto

(USA Today) -- The Irish rock star Bono will urge President Bush Tuesday to spend $1 billion more in the first year of Bush's five-year plan to fight AIDS in Africa and the Caribbean.

At issue is whether the United States should spend the $3 billion "authorized" for the first year by the legislation that created the program, or the $2 billion the White House has asked to be "appropriated," or actually paid out.

Bono, of the band U2, has long been an activist on issues related to Africa and is to meet with Bush Tuesday at the White House.

In a meeting Monday with USA TODAY editors and reporters, Bono said the president should push for the additional $1 billion. Bono's organization DATA (Debt, AIDS, Trade, Africa) estimates the $1 billion could prevent 1.6 million HIV infections in Africa.

Bono also said quickly helping Africa will prevent "10 more Afghanistans" by lessening the chances of the AIDS crisis turning the continent into a breeding ground for international terrorists.

When the president unveiled the $15 billion program in his State of the Union address last January, he said that it would prevent 7 million HIV infections in Africa and the Caribbean, treat 2 million HIV-infected people and care for 10 million HIV-infected individuals and AIDS orphans. Nearly 30 million Africans have the AIDS virus.

The White House says the initiative is one of the president's top priorities, even as the cost of the occupation in Iraq mounts and budget deficits soar.

At $2 billion for the first year, "the president is following through on his commitment," said Trent Duffy, spokesman at the Office of Management and Budget.

Aides of Sen. Majority Leader Bill Frist, R-Tenn., say that the first-year budget may slightly exceed Bush's request and that Frist is committed to spending $15 billion over five years. But the White House hasn't asked for $3 billion the first year, and Frist and many members of Congress do not want to spend that much because of concern that it might overwhelm AIDS programs.

Bono disagrees. "It's sort of 'We'd love to give them the money, but the Africans just couldn't spend it.' Please, just say you don't have the money, but don't say that. Let's be respectful of the gravity of 7,000 casualties a day to this illness."

DATA and a number of other organizations, including the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, will call today for the $3 billion commitment. This week, DATA radio ads featuring actress Ashley Judd will urge lawmakers to "Keep America's Promise to Africa."

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