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Friday, 14 July, 2000, 17:57 GMT 18:57 UK
Mandela makes impassioned plea on AIDS

The international conference on AIDS has ended in Durban with an impassioned plea by the former president of South Africa, Nelson Mandela, for urgent action to halt the spread of the disease in the developing world.

He described the pandemic as probably the greatest threat ever faced by humanity which, in Africa, had wiped out the development gains of decades and sabotaged the future.

Mr Mandela urged scientists and politicians to put aside their arguments over whether HIV infection causes AIDS, and concentrate on proven approaches that would help its victims.

The debate over the origins of AIDS was launched by the current South African leader, Thabo Mbeki, and the BBC correspondent there says the country's efforts to combat the disease have been hampered by the government's pre-occupation with the issue. More than one-thousand-five-hundred people are infected with HIV every day in South Africa.

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