US AIDS pledge 'big step in right direction', Bono

30 Jan 2003
Bono has welcomed US President George Bush's decision to spend more on Aids prevention in Africa and the Caribbean.

In his annual State of the Union address on Tuesday, the US President surprised commentators by revealing plans to increase the country's Emergency Plan for Aids Relief budget by $10 billion (£6.28bn) to $15 billion (£9.43bn) over the next five years. President Bush said the funds would help prevent seven million new infections.

Bono, speaking on behalf of DATA the campaigning organisation which fights poverty and the AIDS crisis in the developing world, said that 'If we can turn the president's bold long term vision into near term results we're excited. Any delay in increased funding means more lives lost and an even bigger cheque in the future.'

The US, he added, needs to spend $2.5bn (£1.5bn) out of this year's budget to help tackle the Aids crisis - and Europe must match the US contribution. When it does, then 'the war against the biggest health crisis in 600 years will have truly begun.'

That said, the American commitment was a big step in the right direction. 'The president's emphasis upon anti-retroviral treatment represents a true paradigm shift and is to be wholly welcomed,' he said.

Campaigners have hailed America's surprise $15bn package - and are calling for other countries to follow suit. More here

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The following is excerpted from President Bush's State of the Union address on January 28, 2003:
"As our Nation moves troops and builds alliances to make our world safer, we must also remember our calling, as a blessed country, to make this world better. Today, on the continent of Africa, nearly 30 million people have the AIDS virus including three million children under the age of 15. There are whole countries in Africa where more than one-third of the adult population carries the infection. More than four million require immediate drug treatment. Yet across that continent, only 50,000 AIDS victims only 50,000 are receiving the medicine they need.
Because the AIDS diagnosis is considered a death sentence, many do not seek treatment. Almost all who do are turned away. A doctor in rural South Africa describes his frustration. He says, We have no medicines many hospitals tell [people], You ve got AIDS. We can't help you. Go home and die.
In an age of miraculous medicines, no person should have to hear those words. AIDS can be prevented. Anti-retroviral drugs can extend life for many years. And the cost of those drugs has dropped from 12,000 dollars a year to under 300 dollars a year which places a tremendous possibility within our grasp.
Ladies and gentlemen, seldom has history offered a greater opportunity to do so much for so many. We have confronted, and will continue to confront, HIV/AIDS in our own country. And to meet a severe and urgent crisis abroad, tonight I propose the Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief a work of mercy beyond all current international efforts to help the people of Africa. This comprehensive plan will prevent seven million new AIDS infections treat at least two million people with life-extending drugs and provide humane care for millions of people suffering from AIDS, and for children orphaned by AIDS. I ask the Congress to commit 15 billion dollars over the next five years, including nearly ten billion dollars in new money, to turn the tide against AIDS in the most afflicted nations of Africa and the Caribbean."


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