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Last Updated: Monday, 24 November, 2003, 21:47 GMT
The show goes on in Aids battle
As the music world gears up for the weekend's Nelson Mandela Aids benefit concert, BBC News Online looks at the showbiz world's long-standing commitment to the fight against the disease.

Saturday will see Beyonce, Queen and U2's Bono star in what is being hailed as the highest profile event of its kind ever staged.

The Nelson Mandela's Aids benefit concert in Cape Town on 29 November will be broadcast on MTV on World Aids Day, 1 December, to a potential TV audience of three billion in more than 90 countries.

It marks something of a milestone in the campaign by entertainers and artists to fight the growing global HIV epidemic.

The showbiz world has been progressively stepping up its efforts for Aids research and support for more than a decade.

A key moment in the history of the movement was the death of actor Rock Hudson more than 18 years ago.

Hudson's death from Aids in October 1985 at the age of 59 was a turning point in the public's perception of the illness.

Until then, Aids had been dismissed by a large section of the population as a so-called "gay plague", affecting relatively low numbers of people limited to high-risk groups.

But the demise of a star of such stature had an enormous impact, waking many people up to the real horrors of HIV.

Dame Elizabeth Taylor
Dame Elizabeth Taylor has donated $8m (4.75m) to the cause
Actress Morgan Fairchild said his death "gave Aids a face", while Dallas star Linda Gray said his legacy would be the continued fight for a cure.

Another pivotal moment was the 1991 Tony Awards in New York, when actor Jeremy Irons wore a red ribbon while co-hosting the US theatre prizes with actress Julie Andrews.

The ribbons had been designed by a group of New York artists called Visual Aids who had seen many of their friends die from the illness.

For a while they were a common emblem in showbiz circles, seen at all the big awards ceremonies and after-show parties.

During the coming years a host of major artists from both film and music, led by Dame Elizabeth Taylor and Sir Elton John, would embrace the cause.

Dame Elizabeth has raised more than $8m (4.75m) in 12 years since forming the Elizabeth Taylor Aids Foundation in 1991.

She retired from acting at this year's Academy Awards to dedicate her time to Aids activism.

Jeremy Irons
Jeremy Irons was the first star to wear the red ribbon
The Elton John Aids Foundation is another major source of money for Aids research. This year alone it donated 930,000 from the singer's annual White Tie and Tiara ball, held at his mansion near Windsor.

The Aids Project Los Angeles has said 80% of its funding comes from the entertainment industry, often through star-studded fund-raisers.

Yet despite its 20-year media profile, Aids has been the subject of just one major mainstream Hollywood film - Philadelphia, made in 1993, starring Tom Hanks as a gay lawyer with the illness who is fired by a conservative law firm.

Donated millions

Some critics have accused the major studios of holding an ingrained attitude towards Aids and homosexuality, with agents wearing their red ribbons but keeping their stars in the closet for fear of being typecast - or not cast at all.

Bono has used his position to influence world leaders
HIV-positive actors who made their status public have included Michael Kearns, Lee Mathis and Keith Christopher. Openly gay David Geffen, co-founder of the Dreamworks studio, has donated millions to the cause.

Doing its part, the Day Of Compassion organisation urged TV networks to include Aids in their storylines.

Two years ago, a group of singers called Artists Against Aids Worldwide came together, uniting some of pop and rock's highest-profile artists including Christina Aguilera, Alicia Keys, Jennifer Lopez, Michael Stipe, Britney Spears and Nelly.

The group recorded the album What's Going On, spearheading an organisation that has raised hundreds of thousands of dollars.

Other leading campaigners include model-turned-activist Bianca Jagger, X-Files star Gillian Anderson and U2's Bono.

Bono is one of the driving forces behind the Mandela event, using his position to try to persuade US President George Bush and other world leaders of the need for more millions.

It is a daunting and formidable challenge.


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