Bono Marvels at Antiretroviral Drugs as Countries Unite on World AIDS Day

U2 front man and humanitarian activist Bono has praised antiretroviral drugs that are bringing back AIDS sufferers from the brink of death as countries unite for World AIDS Day.

One such miracle is that of eight-year-old Denyse Mushimiyimana was almost comatose in May when Bono visited the paediatric ward of the central hospital in Kigali where she was receiving treatment after being newly diagnosed with the virus.

Her distraught father, also infected with HIV, could only look on at the motionless skeletal frame of his daughter as he sat at her hospital bedside. Now Denyse's parents are rejoicing thanks to the 'Lazarus effect' of antiretroviral therapy which has allowed their daughter to return to school and join in the same games and activities that the other children can.

"Aids is no longer a death sentence," Bono said. "Just two pills a day will bring someone who is at death's door back to full health, back to full life. Doctors call it 'the Lazarus effect'. I've seen it myself and I have to say that it's nothing short of a miracle."

He added: These pills are available at any corner drugstore. They cost less than a dollar a day, but the poorest people in Africa earn less than a dollar a day. They can't afford them, and so they die. It's unnecessary. It's insane."

Bono recently launched the RED campaign together with philanthropist Bobby Shriver to bring big businesses and customers into the fight against HIV and Aids. Corporate giants Amex, Apple, Armani, Gap, Converse and Motorola have all signed up and brought out special RED products.

A percentage of the sale of these products goes straight to the Global Fund which was set up in 2002 with the specific purpose of fighting HIV and AIDS. The campaign has already raised more than £5m.

Meanwhile, the United Nations Secretary-General, Kofi Annan, has called on all people across the globe to hold their leaders accountable on World AIDS Day - 1 December 2006.

Urging the world to remain united in the fight against AIDS, Annan requested that momentum remain strong, as movements across the world mobilise to put pressure on the world's top politicians and leaders to do more.

At a public commemoration ceremony held at St Bartholomew's Church in New York on Thursday, Annan told the audience that the virus, which has killed 25 million people and infected 40 million others, is "the greatest challenge of our generation".

However, Annan was also quick to commend efforts saying that there had been a noticeable and distinct change in the attitude of the international community over the past decade.

Annan said, "Financial resources are being committed like never before, people have access to antiretroviral treatment like never before, and several countries are managing to fight the spread like never before. Now, as the number of infections continues unabated, we need to mobilize like never before."

Indicating what kind of response he would like to see from the result of World AIDS Day, the UN chief declared the urgent need for "every president and prime minister, every parliamentarian and politician, to declare that 'AIDS stops with me".

It is now 25 years since the first case of AIDS was identified, and this year also marks the 19th World AIDS Day.

The UN has remained dedicated to fighting the virus, and is also marking the 10th anniversary since the formation of UNAIDS, which is the UN-wing formed with the specific focus to finding the most efficient and effective methods of fighting the pandemic.

The theme given to this year's World AIDS Day is 'Accountability'. With this in mind, Annan called on the world's most powerful leaders to protect vulnerable groups, including sex workers, as well as those living with HIV.

World leaders "need to work for real, positive change that will give more power and confidence to women and girls, and transform relations between women and men at all levels of society," he declared.

However, he also acknowledged that accountability to eradicate AIDS was not limited to political leaders as he pushed for all people worldwide to take a note of the horrific death toll that AIDS brings, with 4 million new cases every year.

The UNAIDS target to treat 9.8 million people with antiretroviral by 2010 is far behind schedule according to commentators, and Annan said that by 2010 the total need must more than double to more than US$20 billion (Euro15 billion) every year. Currently the figure stands at just US$8 billion.

Annan concluded: "Because the response has started to gain real momentum, the stakes are higher now then than ever before. We cannot risk letting the advances that have been achieved unravel; we must not jeopardize the heroic efforts of so many."