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Mandela: Ending HIV/AIDS Affliction Is 'In Our Hands'

Nelson Mandela says the answer to ending the HIV/AIDS pandemic lies in the hands of the world's people. VOA's Delia Robertson reports South Africa's elder statesman was speaking at an AIDS concert in Johannesburg.

The concertgoers, thousands of them, roared as Mr. Mandela appeared on stage at the annual AIDS concert.

The former South African President told the audience at the concert of his 46664 HIV/AIDS charity that treatment programs are not keeping pace with new infections.

"That for every person who receives treatment, there are four others that are newly infected," he noted.

Mr. Mandela was joined by dozens of local and international stars including Johnny Clegg, Annie Lennox, and Peter Gabriel.

He said that even though latest UNAIDS figures show a slowing down in the pandemic, a concerted effort is needed to turn those incremental changes into significant numbers.  And he said, it starts with reducing new infections.

"We have always said that if we are to stop the AIDS epidemic from expanding, we have to break the cycle of new HIV infections," he explained.  "All of us working together - government, communities, and civil society - can make the difference that is needed."

South Africa has the largest number of people living with HIV/AIDS, around 5.5 million.  Globally some 33 million are infected, most in sub-Saharan Africa.  Mr. Mandela said change requires breaking the silence around HIV/AIDS and sexual abuse.

"Talk openly about HIV and AIDS.  Urge those around you to change attitudes to people living with HIV," he added.  "Break the silence about violence against women and children. Start with you as an individual, as the 46664 slogan says:  It is in our hands."

The next 46664 concert will be in London next year to mark Mr Mandela's 90th birthday.

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