The following is a recap/overview of Agnes Nyamayarwo’s presentation at The Hype and The Feedback, the first-ever academic conference about U2. It doesn’t reflect all of her presentation and many parts are paraphrased.
Before Agnes speaks, Bono introduces her via a pre-taped video. He says hello to the conference attendees and says that U2 is proud of the involvement of their audience in stuff going on outside of the music.
Bono – “The woman I’m about to introduce you to is a proper rock star in that she’s an actual heroic figure. She’s dangerous – the quietest storm that ever blew into town. She is one of the greatest campaigners in the history of this fight.”
Bono – “When I first met Agnes in 2002, I think there was only 50,000 people in Africa, on the entire continent, on anti-retroviral drugs. Now there’s 3 million, largely because of people like Agnes and those of you who got out and campaigned.”
Agnes comes on stage and gets a standing ovation from the whole audience. Begins to talk…
Agnes lost her husband to HIV/AIDS, lost her youngest son to HIV/AIDS, and another son ran away — Agnes hasn’t seen him since 1993. Agnes herself was also diagnosed with HIV/AIDS.
She wanted to find a way to educate other parents about HIV/AIDS prevention. Joined TASO, The AIDS Support Organization.
In 2001, Agnes started getting sick. It continued into 2002. In May 2002, she and others from TASO first met with Bono and Paul O’Neill.
Bono: “Are you on life-prolonging treatment?” We said no, because we don’t have the money. Bono asked, “where do you get the courage to do all this?” We knew our time was coming (i.e., death), but we continued working. Bono said we were the real fighters. Bono provided funding so that the group could start treatment.
We started on treatments right after that. Within months, my health was back. But I was feeling guilty that we would live while others are dying.
In November 2002, Bono invited Agnes to educate Americans as part of the Heart of America Tour. “Bono talked about our suffering as if he was one of us, one of the African people. His passion has increased our motivation to do more.”
“My dream is to see Africa, and the whole world, free of AIDS.”