Mandela, Gates Urge African Youth To Fight AIDS
Former South African President Nelson Mandela and Microsoft Chair Bill Gates on Monday in Johannesburg, South Africa, called on South African youth, especially men, to fight HIV/AIDS with the same passion as previous generations fought apartheid, the AP/Las Vegas Sun reports. Mandela and Gates, along with their wives -- former Mozambican first lady Graca Machel and Melinda Gates, respectively -- spoke to about 100 university students at a youth forum on the epidemic. "The fight against AIDS will indeed require another social revolution," Mandela said, adding, "Once more, the youth of our country are called upon to play a leading role in a social revolution, as they did so heroically in the revolutionary struggle against apartheid" (Kraft, AP/Las Vegas Sun, 9/22). "HIV/AIDS threatens our future like nothing else has done for the last number of centuries," Mandela said. About five million HIV-positive people live in South Africa, where AIDS-related diseases are the leading cause of death, killing about 600 people a day, according to Reuters (Chege, Reuters, 9/22). "People (in the West) don't get exposure to these problems. If maybe it was in a neighboring country, the humanitarian instincts of the rich world would have reacted," Bill Gates said. The Gateses announced on Sunday that their foundation was donating $168 million to anti-malaria programs in Mozambique, where malaria is the leading cause of death, Agence France-Presse reports. The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation has donated more than $500 million in grants to African health projects, including $50 million to an AIDS treatment program in Botswana and $25 million to an HIV prevention initiative in Nigeria (Grobler, Agence France-Presse, 9/22).
Melinda Gates praised the students for rising above the stigma associated with HIV/AIDS and speaking out about the disease. "This is what needs to happen in your country," she said, adding, "We need people desperately to speak out about AIDS." Mandela said, "We need a fundamental change of mind-set with regards to the way we speak and behave about sex and sexuality." He added, "Boys and men have a particularly critical role in this regard, changing the chauvinist and demeaning ways sexuality and women were traditionally dealt with." In traditional African societies, sex is not discussed openly, and people with HIV/AIDS are often blamed for their own infection, according to the AP/Sun (AP/Las Vegas Sun, 9/22). Machel said, "Every generation is given a challenge. For our generation, ... it was political oppression. But your challenge may be far greater. It is to move this continent out of poverty ... and to overcome AIDS" (Agence France-Presse, 9/22).