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Protesters Demonstrate Against S. Africa's Policy on AIDS in New York

U.S. AIDS activists held a vigil in front of the South African Consulate in New York City Thursday, calling on the South African government to institute a national HIV/AIDS treatment program.

Members of various U.S. based AIDS groups endured bitterly cold temperatures to make their message of solidarity with South African victims of HIV/AIDS.

Amanda Lugg works with the African Services Committee, which serves the African immigrant population in New York. She says that 600 people die of AIDS in South Africa every day, with no end in sight.

"In Province Qunu Natal, which is where [former President Nelson] Mandela is from, they're running out of burial ground. Instead of burying the people horizontally, they're now burying them vertically because there's not enough space," she said.

The South African government estimates over four-million South Africans are currently infected with HIV.

The rally outside the South African Consulate comes in anticipation of a massive demonstration scheduled in Capetown, South Africa, on Friday. Many thousands of demonstrators are expected to flood the streets in what many predict will be the largest HIV/AIDS demonstration in the African nation's history.

Organized by Treatmant Action Campaign, one of the biggest HIV/AIDS activist groups in the world, the demonstration in Capetown will call on South African President Thabo Mbeki to implement a national HIV/AIDS treatment program by the end of this month.

Greg Gonsalvas of the Gay Men's Health Crisis says that if President Mbeki fails to meet the deadline, it will spark even larger protests.

"They are going to start a campaign of civil disobedience in South Africa, which I think is probably unprecedented since the end of apartheid, to urge their government to deliver care, treatment, and prevention for the AIDS epidemic in South Africa," he said.

Mr. Gonsalvas says the rally will likely be one of many in the future across Africa continental.