SYDNEY (Reuters) - Financial tough times in developed economies are undercutting efforts to stop the global spread of AIDS, U2 lead singer Bono said on Tuesday.
"Times are hard in the Western world," the Irish rock star and campaigner told Reuters after launching World Aids Day, marked around the world on December 1, at Sydney's Opera House.
Bono said agencies established to arrest acquired immune deficiency syndrome (AIDS) "were fighting hard for funding" nearly three decades after the disease was first diagnosed.
He added that more money was needed to meet a target set by the Global Fund to eliminate the transmission of HIV from pregnant mothers to their unborn children by 2015.
According to the United Nations children's fund UNICEF, over a thousand babies are born each day in Africa with HIV and about half of the HIV-positive women in Africa do not get the drugs they need to prevent transmission of the virus to their babies.
"In recessionary times, people have to tell their politicians this is important to them," Bono said.
An estimated 33.3 million people worldwide had the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) that causes AIDS in 2009, according to the latest figures issued by UNAIDS. There were 26.2 million in 1999.
There is no cure and no commercially available vaccine but combinations of drugs called antiretrovirals can keep patients healthy. However, the virus stays in the body forever and can reactivate if people stop taking the drugs.
"Some people think that the pandemic is on its way out and it's job done," Bono said. "It is really not so."
Reporting by James Regan, editing by Mike Collett-White and Paul Casciato