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The BBC's Allan Little in Johannesburg
"Doctors here marked the day in protest"
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Friday, 1 December, 2000, 12:37 GMT
Mandela's stark Aids warning
Former South African President, Nelson Mandela
Mandela: "Let's speak openly about HIV-Aids"
Former South African President Nelson Mandela has joined international leaders in warning of the potential disaster facing many countries, including his own, from the disease Aids.

On the occasion of World Aids Day, Mr Mandela said the disease was threatening the very fabric of South African society.

Be faithful to one partner and use a condom

Nelson Mandela

The issue is particularly sensitive in South Africa as Mr Mandela's successor, Thabo Mbeki, has questioned the link between HIV and Aids.

South Africa has one of the world's highest rates of Aids infection with at least 10% of the population - about 4.5 million people - already carrying HIV.

Coinciding with World Aids Day, US pharmaceutical company Pfizer was announcing its plans to provide the South African Government with a free two-year supply of its Aids medication, Diflucan.

'Invisible enemy'

In his World Aids Day message, Mr Mandela said: "Our country is facing a disaster of immeasurable proportions from HIV/Aids.

"We are facing a silent and invisible enemy that is threatening the very fabric of our society.

Aids patient
Nearly 30 million people in the world are infected with HIV
"Be faithful to one partner and use a condom... Let us take precautionary measures. Give a child love, laughter and peace, not Aids," said Mr Mandela.

The former president stressed the need to destigmatise the disease and encourage people to talk about it.

"Leaders in all spheres who are living with HIV should be encouraged, not coerced, to lead by example and disclose their HIV status," Mr Mandela said.


AZT drugs
SA Government refuses to supply Aids drugs in public hospitals
Pfizer said on Friday that it had signed a deal with the South African Government to supply its drug Diflucan free of charge for a two-year period.

Diflucan treats a type of meningitis of the brain as well as a form of meningitis of the oesophagus, which affects up to 40% of Aids patients.

The announcement follows a recent United Nations report which found that the number of those affected by Aids or the HIV virus in the sub-Saharan Africa now totals 25.3 million. The figures represent an increase of 17.7% from a year ago.

Worldwide, more than 30 million people are thought to have HIV.

The Pfizer initiative has been received with scepticism by some activists who maintain that the international focus should be getting as many people treated cheaply, efficiently and safely rather than on a particular drug for one or two indications.

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See also:

01 Dec 00 | World
Events mark Aids 'catastrophe'
29 Sep 00 | Health
Aids: Mandela takes on Mbeki
28 Nov 00 | Africa
Africa's Aids burden
02 Dec 00 | Africa
Eritrea wakes up to Aids
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