Accessibility links

Sergio Vieira de Mello Posthumously Awarded Humanitarian Award

The United Nations Association of the United States has given its humanitarian award posthumously to Sergio Vieira de Mello, U.N. special envoy who was killed in August while heading the U.N. mission in Iraq. Irish rock singer Bono spoke at the organization's annual dinner, which also celebrated a leading physician in the fight against AIDS in Africa.

The evening began with a moment of silence for the 22 people who died two months ago in the truck-bombing of U.N. headquarters in Baghdad.

The association named a special Global Action Humanitarian award for Mr. de Mello, in honor of his decades of work with the United Nations.

U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan paid tribute to Mr. de Mello and said that because of that attack, the U.N.'s mission in Iraq is more complicated than ever.

"We at the United Nations will always be grateful for the standards of competence, commitment and compassion he set for the international public service," said Mr. Annan. "It falls now to the rest of us to carry on in his wake and that of our other murdered colleagues, as we wrestle with the troubling implications of having been targeted so directly."

Another top award was given to Alex Godwin Coutinho, head of The AIDS Support Organization, or TASO, for his work in reducing the rate of infection in Uganda.

Mr. Coutinho said progress is taking place, but lack of money remains a major obstacle for HIV-infected people in Africa, because they can't pay for expensive drug treatments, such as antiretroviral drugs, which can extend life expectancy.

"Now things are beginning to change," said Mr. Coutinho. "The price of antiretrovirals has dropped dramatically. But still most of our TASO clients can only dream, because while TASO can provide most services we still stop short of antiretrovirals. We cannot afford to buy them."

Bono, the singer of U2 who is active in AIDS-related causes, said Western countries need to do more to help curb the AIDS epidemic in Africa.

"In the Middle Ages the Bubonic Plague took out a third of Europe. Imagine [if] China had had a cure, or had treatments, but didn't share that," said Bono. "How would the history books look at China?" he asked. "That's where we are right now. We have these drugs. We just have to get them over there."

Henry McKinnell, head of the pharmaceutical company, Pfizer, was also honored. Pfizer recently announced it is supplying its AIDS drug Diflucan free to 50 countries around the world.