Slowing new HIV infections is the key to combating the Aids pandemic, Nelson Mandela told the tens of thousands gathered for his 46664 benefit concert to mark World Aids Day on Saturday.
The Ellis Park Stadium in Johannesburg erupted in screams before falling silent as the ageing Mandela urged people to stand up and take the fight against Aids into their own hands.
“It is still alarming that for every person who receives treatment there are four others who are newly infected,” said the Nobel laureate, after slowly walked to the podium with the aid of his wife and a walking stick.
International and local artists stood behind him, with their hands raised in their in support of the 4664 “It’s in our hands” campaign.
“Here in South Africa we are making every effort to reach into communities because we believe the answer is in our hands,” said South Africa’s former president.
“If we have to stop the Aids [pandemic] from expanding we have to break the cycle of new HIV infections.”
Mandela urged the millions of people watching in South Africa and around the world to make a personal commitment to stopping the spread of the disease.
“Yes, big ambitious plans are needed to deal with the [pandemic]. But what really matters are small acts of kindness … such as protecting yourself,” he said.
“Talk openly about HIV/Aids. Urge people around you to act differently to people living with HIV. Break the cycle of violence against women and children,” he said as the crowd roared their approval.
The concert, the fifth of its kind launched under the campaign “46664” — named after Mandela’s old prison number — featured 30 local and foreign artists.
Stars such as Live, Annie Lennox and Johnny Clegg have performed in support of his campaign to draw attention to Aids issues in a concert that lasted nearly ten hours.
Previous 46664 concerts, in which stars such as Queen and Yusuf Islam (formerly Cat Stevens) also participated, have taken place in Cape Town and the Western Cape city of George, as well as in Spain and Norway.
Mandela announced 46664 would be “stepping up its campaign” with a massive concert planned for Hyde Park in London on June 27 next year to coincide with his 90th birthday. — AFP