In the wake of their government's decision to provide comprehensive treatment for AIDS patients within the next year, South Africans are marking World AIDS day with renewed vigor and hope.

At the national HIV/AIDS event in Bloemfontein, Health Minister Manto Tshbalala-Msimang told South Africans that they should unite in caring for people in their communities who are living with AIDS, a theme that has infused this year's national AIDS awareness campaign.

"As World AIDS Day approaches, let us unite in action and make a difference," the announcer said. "You can form circles of support and help people in need. You can help yourself and your loved ones by getting tested. Khomanani, caring together, brought to you by government in the spirit of World AIDS Day."

Among those leading the charge is former president Nelson Mandela, who this weekend gathered international and local music stars such as Bono, Queen and Johnny Clegg in Cape Town to launch his global initiative to assist those affected by the disease.

The campaign, known as 46664, which was Mr. Mandela's prison number, asks every person to give one minute of their life to AIDS.

In a rousing address, which ignited concertgoers, Mr. Mandela told his audience that HIV/AIDS is more than a health issue.

"46664 is a vital campaign to help fight a tragedy of unprecedented proportions that is claiming more lives than the sum total of all wars, famines, and floods," said Mr. Mandela. "AIDS is no longer just a disease, it is a human rights issue."

Before the concert, President Thabo Mbeki, who in the past questioned the causal link between HIV and AIDS, congratulated Mr. Mandela for his initiative and said that South Africa is now unified in its resolve to fight the disease.