At the Munich Security Conference in Germany, the U2 frontman, 56, called Pence “the second busiest man on earth” before the two went on to chat about the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief, or PEPFAR. In 2003, President George W. Bush introduced the five-year bilateral agreement, which designated $15 billion to be spent on HIV/AIDS prevention, treatment and research in developing countries. Even Bush critics have praised the initiative, which reportedly now provides antiretroviral drugs to 11.5 million people.
“Twice on the House floor you defended that,” Bono said. “That’s how we know you.”
“It was an extraordinary historic accomplishment,” the vice president, who captured the moment for posterity on Twitter, told Bono. “You played a leading role in carrying it forward.”
Unfortunately, Bono seemed to overlook the rest of Pence’s history with HIV/AIDS issues during the brief interaction. In 2011, the vice president laid the groundwork for a massive HIV outbreak as an Indiana congressman, when the House passed his amendment to defund Planned Parenthood. Public health spending cuts prompted the shuttering of the only Planned Parenthood in Indiana’s Scott County during Pence’s first year as governor in 2013, leaving 24,000 residents without a place to get tested for HIV. That closing is one of several factors that may have influenced a 2015 spike in HIV infections, the worst in Indiana’s history. The outbreak prompted Pence, who also opposed needle exchange programs that can curb the spread of the virus, to declare a state of emergency.
And while Bono and his bandmates are also LGBTQ rights advocates, the singer kept his mouth shut on Pence’s vehemently anti-equality platform during the chat. Given the significance of HIV/AIDS issues to the queer community, this apparent disregard prompted Twitter to do its best to set the U2 singer straight.
Just goes to show that it pays to do a little research into a politician’s rhetoric before heaping them with compliments.
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CORRECTION: The original version of this article referred to PEPFAR as a $15 million initiative. The correct amount is $15 billion. Language has been added to clarify that the 2013 Planned Parenthood closing is one of several factors that were said to have influenced the 2015 HIV outbreak in Indiana.