(12-01-2003) Stray Events in AIDS-Ravaged Southern Africa to Mark AIDS Day -- AFP * - U2 Feedback

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Old 12-01-2003, 05:51 PM   #1
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(12-01-2003) Stray Events in AIDS-Ravaged Southern Africa to Mark AIDS Day -- AFP *

Stray Events in AIDS-Ravaged Southern Africa to Mark AIDS Day

CAPE TOWN (AFP) - South Africa led countries marking World AIDS Day in southern Africa, the world region hardest hit by AIDS, with top personalities including Nobel laureate Bishop Desmond Tutu and Irish rocker Bono, taking part in events around the country.

South Africa is the country worst affected by the disease, with about 5.3 million of a population of 44.8 million infected with HIV or AIDS.

The most colourful event occurred in Cape Town where some 400 activists -- many sporting T-shirts adorned with "HIV Positive" -- held a march.

Irish rocker Bono, in a surprise appearance at the rally, said the real heroes of the day to mark the global pandemic were people living with the disease and others close to them.

"I want you to know we live in an age of celebrity where if you're an actor or a rock star or a hiphop star, you're supposed to be some kind of hero. But really that is bollocks. Real heroes are mothers, firemen, people with HIV who are struggling against all odds."

The march was organised by Treatment Action Campaign (TAC), which spearheaded a civil disobedience campaign to get Pretoria to provide treatment to those infected, and the country's premier trade union COSATU.

Tutu and Peter Piot, the head of the United Nations AIDS agency, UNAIDS, chaired a seminar entitled "HIV/AIDS: Lessons for the World from South Africa" at Cape Town University.

South Africa last week announced that some 46 million dollars (38 million euros) would be allocated for the rest of the fiscal year -- until March 31 -- to fight the disease, but said that people with the highest levels of the virus in their blood would receive priority treatment.

Deputy President Jacob Zuma called for concerted action, saying "combating HIV and AIDS is the responsibility of every South African."

"The government's biggest HIV and AIDS communications campaign, Khomanani (caring together), has targeted men as one of the foundations of family and society, and as care-givers, husbands and partners, and as fathers and as sons."

Khomanani has been adopted as the theme for this year's World's AIDS day. The campaign is South Africa's biggest HIV/AIDS awareness drive.

"We aim to heighten awareness about South Africa's biggest social and healthcare issue of our time. Caring together is not just a slogan," Health Minister Manto Tshanbalala-Msimang said in comments published Monday.

Monday's events in South Africa came on the heels of a gala weekend concert in Cape Town by some of the biggest names in the music industry, who responded to a call by former South African president Nelson Mandela to raise funds to fight the scourge.

They included U2 frontman Bono, sultry R&B star Beyonce Knowles, Peter Gabriel, Bob Geldof, Yusuf Islam -- formerly known as Cat Stevens -- and a galaxy of African talent.

In neighbouring Namibia, events to mark World AIDS Day included an essay competition for children and a day-long music event in the capital, Windhoek.

Health and Social Service Minister Libertina Amathila was Monday quoted in the press as saying: "It is very shocking that every year the turnout (for AIDS-related events) is low. People must change their attitude -- this disease is killing us."

In other southern African countries such as Zambia, Lesotho, Swaziland and Angola the day was marked by rallies and official speeches but the events were largely low key.

The Mozambique government on Monday blamed resistance to change, taboos and other conservative norms for the continued spread of HIV/AIDS in the southern African state.
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