Bono has lavished praise on George Bush for the promised $30 billion spend supposedly to fight AIDS in Africa. Bono acknowledges that this won't be to everyone's taste:
"But I'm standing up and I'm applauding the president and congress."
However, even Bono admits that one third of this money has got to be spent on abstinence campaigns - which, effectively, means ten million dollars wasted; indeed, pushing abstinence is worse than not doing anything.
In America, the studies done into kids who pledge themselves to abstinence suggests that their sexual activity doesn't differ noticeably from kids who don't; it's just as they're unprepared, they tend to get pregnant more frequently. Somehow, spending ten million dollars replicating that failed experiment in nations with frightening rates of HIV infection doesn't seem to be too great an idea.
Oh, and this is thirty billion not a one-off payment, it's to be spread over five years. And it looks a little paltry next to the European Commission's pledge of an extra $537 million to the Global Fund over the same period.
The money will be going through the President's Emergency Fund for AIDS Relief coffers. Part of their demand before releasing funds is that organisations who draw down funding "have a policy "explicitly opposing" prostitution and sex trafficking". This, of course, causes problems for organsiations who are working with sex workers to spread safer sex messages, provide tests for sex workers and support those who are HIV+ to provide an alternative means of support.
As an example, in 2005, Brazil had no choice but to refuse $40m US grant because of the clause; the highly respected DKT International group lost its funding. [Source: Planned Parenthood.
Oddly, though, while health workers were being told to have nothing to do with sex workers by PEFAR, Randall L Tobias [Bush's ambassador for PEFAR, before becoming deputy Secretary of State] was busily having lots and lots to do with them. Tobias resigned at the end of April after it emerged that he didn't have a personal policy opposing prostitution:
Tobias, who is married, said there had been "no sex," and that recently he had been using another service "with Central Americans" to provide massages.
Presumably Tobias was merely teaching the women the joys of abstinence. Or maybe he's a liar. We don't know. We do know, though, that the man is a hypocrite.
So Bush is offering a smidge of money, designed less to help solve a problem as embark on an act of social engineering - all the while, entrusting the funds into the hands of men who can't keep them off sex workers. And Bono wonders why people who actually work in AIDS HIV prevention (rather than, say, the music industry, or the construction industry, or as a venture capitalist on Wall Street) find it hard to get to their feet to cheer.
By the way, the war in Iraq is currently costing $4.5 billion dollars a month. (That, by the way, is if you don't count the cost of weapons and equipment.) Oddly, there's been no attempt to insist the Iraqi people sign a pledge of abstinence before they receive this, uh, assistance.