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U2’s Bono praises Canada at Montreal AIDS conference

Bono addresses a session at the Global Fund conference Saturday, September 17, 2016 in Montreal.

Paul Chiasson/THE CANADIAN PRESS

Canada is a leader when it comes to collaborating on global issues, rock star Bono said Saturday during his keynote address at a Montreal conference to fundraise for AIDS, malaria and tuberculosis.

"It's just great to see Canada leading on this," he said. "You've always been ahead of the curve in realizing we can do more if the international community works together and subsuming your ego into the grand plan."

Bono was joined onstage by UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon and billionaire philanthropist Bill Gates on the second and final day of an international donor conference that hoped to raise US$13-billion to replenish the Global Fund for the fight against the three major infectious diseases.

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At the conference's closing event, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced the event had nearly reached its fundraising target.

"We have reached our goal together, we have raised almost $13-billion and in doing so we have saved eight million lives," he said.

Organizers said more than US$12.9-billion was raised for the next three years.

Canada has already promised more than $800-million for the 2017-19 funding period.

Bono, the U2 frontman, saluted Trudeau's commitment to equality, especially to girls and women in poverty.

"The world hears you when you say 'poverty is sexist,"' he said.

"I'm a fan of Canada," he continued in French to applause.

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In his own keynote address, Gates said the funds raised during the conference would help get more people into treatment and keep the three deadly diseases under control.

"The commitments we're making here in Montreal are an opportunity to show that even in challenging times, we still care and we're willing to invest in the things that will make a more equitable, prosperous and secure world for people everywhere," Gates said.

The $13-billion funding goal would support the fund's goals for the next three years. The United Nations has a goal of eliminating the epidemics of AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria by the year 2030.

Mark Dybul, the fund's executive director, said the three diseases are preventable, deadly and disproportionately and affect marginalized and vulnerable populations.

"We are the generation that can bring these epidemics under control," he said.

He said the world is moving toward eliminating the diseases but warned they could return in stronger, more drug-resistant forms if not controlled.

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Trudeau hosted the conference, which is designed to show Canadian leadership on the international stage ahead of what is expected to be his first address to the United Nations General Assembly next week.

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