- The Washington Times - Tuesday, September 16, 2003

Activists led by the rock star Bono urged the Bush administration yesterday to boost funding to anti-AIDS and antipoverty programs in Africa, warning that the amount being spent falls short of pledges made earlier by President Bush.

“The AIDS is not a cause, it’s an emergency,” said the Irish rocker yesterday during a news conference held at St. John’s Episcopal Church, where several religious leaders also participated.

Several hours after meeting Mr. Bush at the White House, Bono explained that “we are here trying to get President Bush to fully fund the authorization bill that he signed for $3 billion this year.”

Bruce Wilkinson, senior vice president for international programs at World Vision, a Christian relief and development organization, said: “Every 14 seconds, a child loses his or her parents to AIDS in Africa.”

In his State of the Union speech in January, Mr. Bush promised $15 million to fight AIDS over the next five years, mostly in Africa.

In his 2004 budget bill, he included $3 billion to battle AIDS, malaria and tuberculosis.

He also created the Millennium Challenge Account (MCA) and pledged $1.3 billion for a select few poor countries to help battle corruption and poverty.

Congress plans to cut the AIDS funding to $2 billion and the MCA to less than $1 billion.

“The Challenge Account is a fantastic idea. It’s a new approach to AIDS,” Bono said.

Yesterday, several U.S. churches and the organization DATA (Debt, AIDS, Trade, Africa), created by Bono, reaffirmed their wish to see America keep its promise to Africa.

“The millions who are dying of AIDS, malaria, contaminated water and malnutrition cannot wait,” said Bishop John Ricard, chairman of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.

“Meeting these commitments is not just a question of dollars, but of ethical responsibility and national credibility,” Bishop Ricard said.

The activists urged both houses of Congress to reconsider the decision to cut funds before taking a final vote on the budget.

“We know the problems with the economy, the security and the war, but the AIDS is an emergency,” said Bono.

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