Geldof told delegates at the 20th International AIDS Conference it was “staggeringly brilliant” that the end of the epidemic was in sight but suggested the “preposterous reluctance ” of governments to fund HIV programs in developing countries is “disgraceful”, especially as the journey to the end of the HIV epidemic is “in the last mile”.
Reflecting on the impact of HIV on developing nations over the past 30 years, Geldof told delegates the epidemic in low-income nations is “inextricably linked” to poverty.
It was this poverty, and the obligations of those who are wealthier to assist those in need that took his attention for much of the conversation.
The former Boomtown Rats singer had harsh words for first world nations who were reneging on foreign aid commitments and regaled the audience against the Coalition government's recent budget cuts to foreign aid.
"When a government makes a promise, regardless of its political stripe, it is not signing the name of the prime minister of the day to that promise, it is signing the sovereign will of the people to that promise, it is signing the name of the Australian people," Geldof said.
"The Australian people gave their word to the poorest people of this planet. You can't mess with your sovereign promise to the poor, they are too vulnerable, they are too weak. It's like beating an infant."
Geldof was referring to Australia backing away from its agreement to provide 0.7 per cent of its gross national income as part of the millennium goals set by the UN in 2000.
In 2007 an agreement between both major parties made way for Australia to lower the Official Development Assistance (ODA) to 0.5 per cent of the gross national income. Currently Australia’s ODA is estimated at 0.3 per cent and the Federal government announced in the most recent budget that $7.6 billion would go from Official Development Assistance programs over the next five years.
Asked how much of his view might be motivated by “white man saviour” complex, Geldof told the interviewer to “fuck off”. It was not the first or the last of the profanities, as Geldof waxed lyrical on his views of Africa and the HIV pandemic.
The singer also urged everyone with a passion for human rights to take up arms for the cause, and suggested there was nothing wrong with people using their celebrity status to draw attention to human rights failures, citing Brittany Spears, Angelina Jolie and Keira Knightley as great examples of stars using their notoriety for good.
Asked if it was the obligation of a celebrity to use their fame to promote a good cause, Geldof’s answer was an emphatic No.
“The job of the artist is to create good art – create bad art and you're a bad artist, he pondered.
“It’s like saying to a plumber, ‘Fix my toilet’. And he says: ‘Actually I’m pretty concerned about the situation in Africa’. You say ‘Fuck off and just fix my toilet…”
“If it’s not your thing fair enough. If you don't want to use your fame to do that – it’s fine there is absolutely no obligation. More importantly how do we alert people to the fact that things can change and that it cannot be solved by politics…”