U2 frontman Bono has joined with musician Bob Geldof to form DATA (Debt, AIDS, Trade in Africa), the latest in a series of initiatives aimed at assisting African countries in need. "They are three of

U2 frontman Bono has joined with musician Bob Geldof to form DATA (Debt, AIDS, Trade in Africa), the latest in a series of initiatives aimed at assisting African countries in need. "They are three of the most pressing issues facing Africa," Bono told the Hollywood Reporter. "It's not just, let's help the poor people. At the heart of this is, do we really believe in equality and equal opportunity?"

While Bono says the world is right to be concerned about "what is going on in the Middle East and the swell of terrorism," he stresses that by furthering AIDS prevention work in Africa, "I think we can actually stymie the malaise of anti-American, anti-Western hatred if we actually get out and show what it is we are capable of."

Tonight (Feb. 21), Bono will be honored in New York as the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences' (NARAS) Person of the Year. "I turned it down last year just out of embarrassment," he admitted. "This year, I was told you just can't do that. MusiCares is an amazing thing, and you just have to roll with that. I just hope for the people who come that it's not a cringe-making affair. It seems like the sort of occasion that you should be dead to be there. It would be better if you were a ghost. I'm glad I'm not, by the way. That's one rock-star cliche too far."

Bono was among a host of stars associated with a planned AIDS benefit concert last month in Cape Town, but the event was canceled due to problems with broadcast rights and sponsorship. Bono, the Eurythmics' Dave Stewart, and Clash principal Joe Strummer had also been working on a song, "48864," named for the ID number worn by Mandela during his years of Apartheid-era imprisonment.

"A week before Joe was to come to Dublin to finish the song, he died, which was really a cruel blow," Bono said. "I think we're going to put together an AIDS emergency album centered on Africa."

Meanwhile, U2 is nominated for best rock performance by a duo or group with vocal Grammy for its performance of "Walk On" on the "America - A Tribute to Heroes" telethon album. The group is also up for the best song Oscar for "The Hands That Built America," from the film "Gangs of New York." The track already won the best original song trophy last month at the Golden Globes.

"[Director Martin Scorsese] wanted me singing," Bono said. "I sing actually in the middle of the picture, though you'd never know. There's a street scene, and I sing an ancient Gaelic melody -- he wanted me to do it so [that] when my voice came up at the end of the film, it wasn't strange. The Oscar nomination is a big deal for us."