Los Angeles Times

Hasn't found what he's looking for?

Bono has always wanted people to listen to him, but his latest tour has conveyed a far greater sense of urgency.

And he didn't even sing.The Irish rocker wasn't content to just commemorate World AIDS Awareness Day on Sunday. Instead, he kicked off a seven-city "Heart of America" Tour of the Midwest that will bring him and others to Chicago Tuesday night and Wednesday for meetings with community leaders and local AIDS activists.

The tour is sponsored by DATA -- "Debit, AIDS, Trade for Africa," -- an organization Bono helped found a year ago with Microsoft's Bill Gates.

DATA aims to reduce debt, lower trade embargos and raise money to fight AIDS in exchange for African governments showing accountability.

While Bono has been in the public eye as U2's lead singer for more than 25 years, he has been an activist for Africa since 1984, when U2 participated in Live Aid and other efforts for famine relief in Ethopia. Over the last few years, Bono has pushed his efforts further, trying to end Third World debt and prevent the spread of AIDS.

In May, Bono found an unlikely traveling companion in U.S. Treasury Secretary Paul O'Neill. The rock star and the Republican Cabinet member toured Africa to witness fisthand the ravages of AIDS. While Bono believes the U.S. and other wealthy nations should forgive African debt; O'Neill opposes doing so without assurances that the money will be used wisely. Despite their differences, the pair found mutual respect.

He understood economic theory and he understood the impact of colonialism," O'Neill said then. "He knew what it was like to go into an AIDS clinic and see three people in a bed all dying together and care about it and know it doesn't have to be that way."

On Wednesday, Bono, 42, and his entourage head to Wheaton College to talk to 2,100 students. The sold-out event is private and, if it's like the one in Lincoln, Neb., on Sunday Bono, won't be singing. "We really liked his message and it sounded like a good one to be broadcast from Wheaton College," said school spokeswoman Pat Swindell, who wasn't sure why the college was selected for the event.

David Munar, associate director of the AIDS Foundation of Chicago, has been consulting with tour organizers to bring together AIDS advocates for a meeting Wednesday.

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