In recognition of this year’s World AIDS Day, U2 singer and global activist Bono is stepping up his fight against HIV/AIDS by personally lobbying American legislators to maintain funding for global AIDS initiatives and awareness. His plea comes at a moment when Washington is embroiled in tensebudget debates over how to avoid the so-called “fiscal cliff” which would trigger automatic spending cuts and tax hikes. Bono showed up in Washington a few weeks after the presidential election to make his case and he didn’t just bring star-appeal, he brought data. His international advocacy organization, The ONE Campaign, recently released a report, warning that despite scientific strides made in combating the pandemic, the United Nation’s goal to achieve the “beginning of the end of AIDS by 2015” will fail if funding is cut to AIDS programs. The report also says financial and political commitment to AIDS efforts from the usual donor countries are varied, with the U.S., U.K. and France leading efforts while Germany, Canada, Japan and Italy lag behind in funding. Bono pushed lawmakers to continue to make AIDS financing a priority. Given the current status, the beginning of the end ofAIDS—defined as when the number of new HIV infections each year is surpassed by the number of people receiving treatment—will not be reached until 2022
American support is key to reaching the ambitious goals set by the United Nations. When Bono sat down with TIME’s managing editor, Rick Stengel last year, he shared his confidence in the Obama Administration’s financial commitment and praised the U.S’s role in leading efforts to fight the virus. “It is an extraordinary thing that the United States has done, which is in the war against this tiny little virus, which has caused so much destruction and heartache, American leadership has been the turning point,” said Bono in the interview. “Five million lives have been saved around the world because of American leadership.”
Despite the anxiety over whether lack of fiscal support will slow the momentum the movement has already achieved, Bono’s organization, The ONE Campaign and its fundraising division (RED), are continuing to spearhead awareness with a new pop culture initiative coinciding with World AIDS Day on December 1st.
ONE is launching a first-person YouTube video series called “It starts with me,” with video messages and stories from contributors like AIDS activist Cleve Jones and actor Colin Farrell. (RED) has teamed up with Tiesto, a leading electronic music DJ to release a compilation album, DANCE (RED), SAVE LIVES with fellow EDM musicians. The album corresponds with a global YouTube livestream from the Stereosonic Festival in Melbourne, Australia.
As Bono told TIME prior to last year’s World AIDS Day, the beginning of the end of AIDS is nearing with continued international political and financial support. “With some breakthroughs in science there is a chance to turn [this around]… As I say it to you, I can hardly believe the sound of it. For some people, this is a really emotional moment,” he said.Alexandra Sifferlin