Bono thanks U.S. Con­gress

Trump wanted to cut mil­lions in AIDS fund­ing

Sentinel-Review (Woodstock) - - ENTERTAINMENT - JILL LAW­LESS

LON­DON — Bono has a mes­sage for Con­gress: Thanks for ig­nor­ing U.S. Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump. Trump has sought to slash hun­dreds of mil­lions of dol­lars of fund­ing for AIDS pro­grams at home and abroad, but the U2 front­man says mem­bers of Con­gress “have so far turned down this pres­i­dent’s re­quest to cut AIDS fund­ing — right and left in lock­step to­gether on this.”

His mes­sage to them? “Thank you for your lead­er­ship.”

Bono is caught be­tween hope and frus­tra­tion as — for the third time in a decade — he or­ga­nizes an auc­tion to raise money for the fight against HIV/AIDS. Sotheby’s an­nounced de­tails Mon­day of the Dec. 5 sale in Mi­ami to ben­e­fit (RED), the char­ity Bono founded in 2006.

Two pre­vi­ous sales, in 2008 and 2013, raised $89 mil­lion. Five years on from the last, Bono says big strides in pre­ven­tion and treat­ment of HIV/AIDS are threat­ened by a slack­en­ing of global re­solve.

“We could be at the dumb­est mo­ment ever, which is we’re al­most at the moon and we turn back,” Bono says.

Al­most 37 mil­lion peo­ple world­wide have HIV, with nearly 22 mil­lion of them re­ceiv­ing an­tiretro­vi­ral ther­apy, the most ef­fec­tive form of treat­ment, ac­cord­ing to UNAIDS. The num­ber of an­nual in­fec­tions has fallen by al­most half since 1996, to 1.8 mil­lion, and the num­ber of deaths has halved since 2004.

Bono says the re­sults are the prod­uct of “in­cred­i­ble lead­er­ship from around the world” that has made the elim­i­na­tion of the dis­ease a re­al­is­tic prospect. “There’s this gath­er­ing con­sen­sus and mo­men­tum — and now peo­ple are look­ing the other way, and it’s just the wrong mo­ment,” he said.

To help draw at­ten­tion back to the cause, Bono turned to two in­flu­en­tial artists whose work, he says, “has a so­cial-jus­tice core.” The auc­tion is cu­rated by British ar­chi­tect David Ad­jaye, who de­signed the Na­tional Mu­seum of African Amer­i­can His­tory and Cul­ture in Wash­ing­ton, D.C., and U.S. artist Theaster Gates, who runs artis­tic and so­cial projects from his base on Chicago’s South Side. Adopt­ing the theme “light,” the pair has as­sem­bled more than 50 lots from artists, ar­chi­tects and de­sign­ers, in­clud­ing Ai Wei­wei, Jeff Koons, Yinka Shoni­bare and Sean Scully. De­sign pieces in­clude sneak­ers by Chris­tian Louboutin; a curvy cof­fee ta­ble by the late Zaha Ha­did; and a ring carved from a whole di­a­mond, cre­ated by Ap­ple Inc. de­sign chief Jony Ive and in­dus­trial de­signer Marc New­son.

Ad­jaye is of­fer­ing items he has de­signed in­clud­ing a con­crete speaker — in red, nat­u­rally — and Gates has con­trib­uted one of a se­ries of ta­pes­tries made from strips of used fire hose.

“We wanted to re-shed light on this sub­ject mat­ter, metaphor­i­cally,” said Ad­jaye, who also wor­ries that the world’s at­ten­tion has strayed from AIDS, and other crises.

“I think our col­lec­tive sense of civil so­ci­ety is very much un­der siege,” he said. “That cre­ates a kind of ‘not my prob­lem’ at­ti­tude, and I think we have to counter that.”

Money raised by the auc­tion will go to the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tu­ber­cu­lo­sis and Malaria and to Gates’s Re­build Foun­da­tion, which works with de­prived com­mu­ni­ties in Chicago.

One crit­i­cism some­times made of char­i­ties like (RED), which has per­suaded big com­pa­nies in­clud­ing Bank of Amer­ica, Star­bucks and Ap­ple to pro­mote AIDS aware­ness, is that its work lets politi­cians and gov­ern­ments off the hook. Bono ar­gues that “the point is to put them back on the hook.” “Mak­ing some­thing pop­u­lar makes the politi­cians have to pay at­ten­tion,” he said. “And we’re go­ing to need that more than ever” in an era of grow­ing na­tion­al­ism. “Women are the ris­ing cat­e­gory (of in­fec­tions) at the mo­ment, and whilst the world is look­ing the other way in this rather child­ish fight among strong­men across the world, these bud­gets are be­ing cut and women are pay­ing the high­est price.

“It’s re­ally deeply up­set­ting for us all,” he added. “Be­cause we were re­ally get­ting ex­cited. We thought, we’re at the point of in­flec­tion. And now we hear, ‘No, no. We’re go­ing to cut these bud­gets.’ It’s not just Amer­ica. A lot of coun­tries are putting them­selves first. At least they think it’s first — but as you know global health crises don’t re­spect borders.”


U2 singer Bono, above, is thank­ing the U.S. Con­gress for turn­ing down U.S. Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump’s re­quest to cut AIDS fund­ing.

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