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Geldof says Australia aid cuts could have helped HIV battle

Source: Thomson Reuters Foundation - Thu, 24 Jul 2014 10:27 GMT
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Singer Bob Geldof attends a media launch of the Africa Progress Report 2014 in London, United Kingdom, May 8, 2014. REUTERS/Stefan Wermuth
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MELBOURNE (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - Irish campaigner and musician Bob Geldof said on Thursday that achieving the end to poverty was just as possible as achieving the end to AIDS.

Geldof told scientists and activists at a global AIDS conference in Melbourne that what they had achieved in the 30 years since the epidemic started was "staggeringly brilliant".

"The scandal underlying this is the preposterous reluctance to fund the last mile," he said to applause.

Boomtown Rats frontman Geldof shot to global prominence in 1980s, helping to organise Band Aid and Live Aid concerts that raised millions of dollars to battle poverty and famine in Africa.

He also led a major push in 2005 to get rich countries to write off debt to the poorest African countries and double their aid spending by 2010.

Linking poverty to the spread of AIDS, particularly in Africa which has the highest HIV burden, Geldof berated Australia - "still one of the richest countries in the world" - for reducing its commitment to overseas development aid.

In May, the government proposed a cut of A$7.6 billion over the next five years in its foreign aid budget.

At the same time, Australian miners were "all over Africa" making profits that were far greater than the amount of overseas development aid the Australian government would ever give, Geldof said.

"There are huge investments there and huge responsibilities as a result," he added.

The latest UNAIDS figures show 24.7 million people in sub-Saharan Africa are living with HIV, nearly 71 percent of the global total.

Recalling a trip to Democratic of Congo, Geldof said sex workers there told him that prostitutes who insisted on their clients wearing condoms got very little business.

"Those who accepted sex without a condom could name their price," he added. "When I spoke to them, they said, 'What can I do? I've got the kids.'”

He said any chance of fighting AIDS required measures to fight poverty and dismantle barriers to trade such as subsidies imposed by rich countries on poorer ones.

"Achieving the end poverty is truly possible, just as achieving the end of AIDS is almost upon us," Geldof concluded.    

(Editing by Alisa Tang: alisa.tang@thomsonreuters.com)

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