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Friday, 12 July, 2002, 15:58 GMT 16:58 UK
Mandela calls for end to Aids stigma
Nelson Mandela will call for action on Aids
Nelson Mandela: "Many are killed by the stigma of Aids"
Former South African President Nelson Mandela has described Aids as a "war against humanity".

Ending the International Aids Conference in Barcelona, he called for an end to the stigma of HIV, especially for children orphaned by the disease.

The number of children who have lost one or both parents to Aids is set to double to almost 25m by 2010.

"The stigma and discrimination inflicted on these children are atrocious and inexcusable.

Bill Clinton spoke of Maria, born HIV free despite both her parents having the disease
Bill Clinton spoke of Maria, born HIV free despite both her parents having the disease
"Many people suffering from Aids and not killed by the disease itself are killed by the stigma surrounding everybody who has HIV/Aids.

"That is why leaders must do everything in their power to fight and to win the struggle against this stigma."

Mr Mandela told of his own health battles against tuberculosis in jail, and cancer, urging people with HIV and Aids to speak out about their condition.

He added: "When you keep quiet, you are signing your own death warrant."

Launch new window : Aids pandemic
Click to see Aids statistics around the world
He also called for urgent action to curb the relentless spread of the disease.

In an interview with the BBC, Mr Mandela said Aids was killing more people than had been killed by all the wars and natural disasters in the past put together.

He said people in rural areas needed more help to confront the disease.

"The only way for us to help them is for us to go to the traditional leaders and say to them let us go from house to house, from village to village, telling people that if you don't report that you have aids you are signing your own death warrant," he said.

'No shame'

He was joined at the conference by former US President Bill Clinton.

We all know the victims

Bill Clinton
He said everyone in the world had an interest in ending Aids and that everyone could do something to prevent the disease.

And Mr Clinton said infection with the Aids virus should no longer be a badge of shame.

He said: "There are still people who view Aids as something that affects only people who are different."

But he added: "We all know the victims."

Mr Clinton spoke of a four-year-old Nigerian girl called Maria, free of HIV despite both her parents having the disease.

Her father had been praised by the country's president after he battled for his wife to receive drugs during pregnancy to prevent mother-to-child transmission.

The former president also described "unconscionable abuse" of HIV workers in India, revealed by Human Rights Watch, which included one worker having hot chilli powder rubbed in their eyes.

He also criticised the US and other wealthy nations for not contributing more financially to combat the disease, saying they should "pay in a timely fashion".

Earlier in the week, he had described the Aids epidemic as "the worst thing since the bubonic plague killed a quarter of Europe in the 14th century".

Global scourge

Derek Bodell, chief executive at the National Aids Trust welcomed Mr Mandela's call.

He said: "Stigma and discrimination has a direct effect on the welfare of people living with and affected by HIV.

"As people with HIV are living longer and healthier lives, it is vital that they live without the fear of discrimination."

Aids campaigners also echoed Mr Clinton's concerns.

The British charity Oxfam said that at the end of the conference it was "still concerned that there is an insufficient, coherent response from the rich and developing countries".

UNAids says that about 20m people have died of the disease and another 40m are currently infected with the virus which causes it.

Our verdict is that there has been too much talking and not enough action or new money

Oxfam statement
The Barcelona conference has brought together 15,000 doctors, public health officials, researchers and non-government organisations.

Activists are urging the US and other rich countries to commit $10bn a year to the UN's Global Fund to fight Aids, Tuberculosis and Malaria.

Created in 2001, the fund has so far secured just $2.8bn.

A vaccine is still far from assured, although the US biotechnology company VaxGen hopes one could be available by 2005.

Clinton message

Mr Clinton also told activists that although it might appear that there have been no significant advances in the fight against Aids, the work continued.

"Obviously these numbers are overwhelming, and there have been no medical breakthroughs... But there is a greater level of understanding and support among the political leadership of the world across the lines that otherwise divide people," he said.

Is the world doing enough to combat the spread of Aids? Will the latest treatment reach poorer nations? Send us your views using the form below.

We'll be discussing the fight against Aids and HIV in our phone-in programme, Talking Point, this Sunday. If you'd like to take part, please include your phone number with your comments.

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The BBC's Karen Allen
speaks to HIV positive Aids worker Bunthy Sok

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See also:

12 Jul 02 | Health
13 Dec 01 | Health
04 Jul 02 | TV and Radio
12 Jul 02 | Africa
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