Bono says US aid cuts could lead to thousands of AIDS deaths

WASHINGTON - Irish rock star and anti-poverty activist Bono said thousands of people could die from AIDS if the United States cuts development assistance to reduce the budget deficit.

Bono, speaking on Wednesday at the World Bank, said a shrinking US budget for global health would leave more than 275,000 people without treatment for the autoimmune disease, leading to 63,000 more AIDS-related deaths. He cited figures from amfAR, the Foundation for AIDS Research.

"We know there's going to be cuts, we understand that; but not cuts that cost lives," he told a packed atrium at the World Bank, the Washington-based global development lender.

The lead singer from the rock group U2 visits Washington this week to urge politicians to spare US development aid, as Congress is embroiled in negotiations aimed at preventing looming tax hikes and spending cuts known as the "fiscal cliff."

If politicians fail to find a deal, automatic spending cuts could slash more than $1 billion (631 million pounds) from the budget for global health and development, according to figures from the Office of Management and Budget.

Bono, who co-founded the anti-poverty group ONE, said both Republicans and Democrats had been receptive to his message.

"I was terrified about wrestling with this mad lorry that they're driving off the cliff," he said about his visit to Washington.

"(But) we've been saying, and I think we've been heard, that an economic recession does not have to be a moral recession."

Bono, sporting his trademark transparent shades, also spoke to World Bank President Jim Yong Kim on Wednesday about the need for transparent data to fight corruption, and the deadline for eliminating poverty.

He also joked that the World Bank needs to do a better job of selling its programs.

"The World Bank, you don't get a lot of credit when you get things right," he said to a crowd of cheering staff. "This is the home of the crap acronym."

Yet when asked for his final advice to employees at the Bank, he said he had none.

"I want to go work for the Bank," said Bono.

In 2005, he had been floated as a possible candidate for World Bank president, but the position ultimately went to former US deputy defence secretary Paul Wolfowitz.