The heart and soul of Apple, Steve Jobs, who stepped down from his job as CEO of the world’s most popular computer company due to his life-threatening illness, has been rightfully lauded as one of the world’s greatest ever innovators, but he’s also gotten a bad rap in some quarters over his and Apple’s supposed lack of philanthropy.

Jobs, however, has a staunch defender in his old friend Bono, who took issue with a column in The New York Times last week and wrote a letter to the editor in defense of Jobs’s efforts to help those less fortunate.

Bono, who focuses his philanthropic efforts on fighting the AIDS and poverty epidemic in Africa, says that Jobs has been an amazing behind the scenes supporter.

“As a founder of (charity) (Product)RED, I’d like to point out that Apple’s contribution to our fight against AIDS in Africa has been invaluable. Through the sale of (RED) products, Apple has been (RED)’s largest contributor to the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria — giving tens of millions of dollars that have transformed the lives of more than two million Africans through H.I.V. testing, treatment and counseling. This is serious and significant. And Apple’s involvement has encouraged other companies to step up,” Bono wrote.

“Steve Jobs said when we first approached him about (RED), ‘There is nothing better than the chance to save lives.’”

That’s high praise from a man who hasn’t been afraid to call out world leaders in the past for their lack of action on the African crisis. And Bono also pointed out that just because Jobs isn’t turning up for one photo op after another, it doesn’t mean his interest is absent.

“I’m proud to know him; he’s a poetic fellow, an artist and a businessman,” wrote Bono.  “You don’t have to be a friend of his to know what a private person he is or that he doesn’t do things by halves.”

U2 and Apple have had an up and down relationship in the past. The band took part in a special U2 iPod launch in 2004 and promotion around the release of the band’s How to Dismantle an Atomic Bomb CD, but in later years an equity firm that Bono has a major share in, Elevation Partners, funded the Palm line of phones that were a direct (and nowadays, very much defeated) competitor to Apple.