Bono, O'Neill Visit South African AIDS Clinic
U2 lead singer Bono's voice cracked today (May 24) as he tried to explain the emotions he felt talking to a group of South African mothers infected with the AIDS virus. "This is an amazing place, amazU2 lead singer Bono's voice cracked today (May 24) as he tried to explain the emotions he felt talking to a group of South African mothers infected with the AIDS virus. "This is an amazing place, amazing people," he said at the prenatal HIV clinic at Soweto's Chris Hani Baragwaneth hospital. "This is very, very hard for an Irish rock star to admit. I'm actually speechless."
Bono and U.S. Treasury Secretary Paul O'Neill met with some of the patients, who are among the 4.7 million people infected with HIV in South Africa, as part of their 10-day tour of the continent.
Later, Bono gave an impromptu performance at a shanty town in Soweto. A group of students had begun doing a dance to the U2 song "I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For" when their radio broke, and Bono continued the song accompanied by claps and a man playing a traditional drum.
Bono has said he was determined to show O'Neill that aid can be put to good use in Africa during their fact-finding tour. Both men hope the tour will bring worldwide attention to the devastation HIV is bringing to Africa.
O'Neill said he was astounded to find out that so much of aid money coming into the country was being used for prevention instead of treatment. "There is something wrong when the system does not take care of the here and now," he said. O'Neill's recommendation that treatment come before prevention flies in the face of most AIDS programs around the world that make preventing more infections the top priority.
Bono appeared to use flattery to try to publicly pressure O'Neill to give more money for development in Africa and the battle against HIV. "He is getting angrier by the day as he sees the great potential of this continent and how it is not being used," he said as O'Neill stood by his side.
Referring to AIDS, he said, "The secretary will be able to send one message back to the President. This is an emergency what we have seen today." O'Neill responded, "We the world have got to deal with this problem. ... This is doable." O'Neill, who has long criticized the misuse of foreign aid by recipient countries, said he wanted re-evaluations of where U.S. foreign assistance was being spent, as well as an increase in that assistance.
Many of the HIV-positive women had never heard of Bono or O'Neill, but they said they were happy that such clearly important people were interested in their plight. The clinic has been giving Nevirapine to pregnant mothers in a program to try to prevent transmission of HIV to the babies. They hope to be able to treat 8,000 women by the end of the year.
Bono and O'Neill, who arrived in South Africa from Ghana, will also travel to Ethiopia and Uganda.
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