Bono played Santa at JFK Airport in New York City yesterday as he helped ship off 83,000 Christmas gifts to kids stricken with AIDS in Uganda and Sudan.

The U2 star joined Sen. Bill Frist (R-Tenn.) for the kickoff of Operation Christmas Child, a relief effort headed by the Rev. Franklin Graham, son of evangelist Billy Graham.

Bono also pleaded for Washington to cough up more money to fight the deadly HIV virus, which causes AIDS.

"It is absolute madness that at a time of unimaginable prosperity in the world, people can be dying at this level," the superstar rocker said.

"There are cities in Africa where a third of the people are going to die, and we have the technology to prevent it."

Worldwide, there are 42 million HIV-positive people, with sub-Saharan Africa home to 75 percent of them, according to UNAIDS, the United Nations' AIDS agency.

Dr. Nils Daulaire, president of the Global Health Council, has proposed raising America's HIV-related foreign aid to $2.5 billion next year, up from the $1 billion spent this year.

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