Bono To Urge Bush To Spend $3B on Global AIDS Initiative in White House Meeting
Irish rock star Bono -- founder of DATA, an AIDS, debt relief and trade advocacy group -- in a White House meeting today will urge President Bush to spend $3 billion in fiscal year 2004 on the first year of the U.S. global AIDS initiative, USA Today reports (Memmott, USA Today, 9/16). Although the measure (HR 1298) supporting Bush's five-year, $15 billion initiative to fight AIDS in Africa and the Caribbean authorizes $3 billion for the first year of the program, the Bush administration has requested only $2 billion. The Senate last week rejected an amendment to the FY 2004 labor, health and education services appropriations bill (HR 2660) that would have added $1 billion to the roughly $2 billion appropriated by the Senate for the initiative. The House has approved approximately $2 billion for the AIDS initiative in FY 2004 (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 9/11). DATA estimates that the additional $1 billion could prevent 1.6 million HIV infections in Africa, according to USA Today (USA Today, 9/16). During a July press conference, Bush said that his administration requested less than $3 billion in funding for the first year of the initiative in order to give the program time to "ramp up." Bush said, "We sent up something less than $3 billion because we didn't think the program could ramp up fast enough to absorb that amount of money early" (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 8/26). Bono said, "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."
More Meetings, Advertisements
Bono said that DATA and several other organizations, including the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, today will call on Congress to appropriate $3 billion in FY 2004 for the first year of the global AIDS initiative (USA Today, 9/16). Although the meeting with Bush is "key," Bono is also set to meet with members of the Bush administration and "key appropriators" in both the House and the Senate, including National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice, Sen. Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-Tenn.), Sen. Minority Leader Tom Daschle (D-S.D.), and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), Roll Call reports (Bresnahan, Roll Call, 9/16). In addition, DATA this week will air radio advertisements featuring actress Ashley Judd that urge lawmakers to "Keep America's Promise to Africa" (USA Today, 9/16).
USA Today Interview
USA Today also features an interview with Bono, in which he said, "The AIDS emergency offers a chance to America and Europe to show what we're really about. These groups fighting AIDS are great advertisements for the best of what we do, our technology, our creativity, our innovation" (Wilson, USA Today, 9/16). The complete transcript is available online.
In addition, video excerpts of the interview with Bono are available online at usatoday.com.
A kaisernetwork.org HealthCast of the DATA press conference, which will include representatives from Bread for the World, the Christian Methodist Episcopal Church, the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops and World Vision, will be available online after 3 pm ET.