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Mandela Plays Host to AIDS Benefit Concert in S. Africa

November 30, 2003|From Times Wire Services

CAPE TOWN, South Africa — Beyonce Knowles, Bono, Peter Gabriel and other musicians from around the world took to the stage Saturday for an AIDS benefit concert at which former South African President Nelson Mandela played host.

More than 30,000 people, including Oprah Winfrey and Virgin Atlantic Airways Chief Executive Richard Branson, filled Cape Town's Greenpoint Stadium for the show, part of Mandela's 46664 campaign against AIDS, named after his number when he was imprisoned for his fight against apartheid.

With a massive bronzed image of his face as a backdrop, Mandela came on stage dressed in a black shirt with the number emblazoned across his chest.

"For the 18 years that I was in prison on Robben Island I was supposed to be reduced to that number," he said. "Millions infected with HIV/AIDS are in danger of being reduced to mere numbers if we don't act now. They are serving a prison sentence for life."

The concert -- broadcast live by the South African Broadcasting Corp.'s Africa channel and on the Internet -- is part of an appeal to governments to declare a global AIDS emergency.

Between 34 million and 46 million people worldwide are infected with HIV, including 5.3 million South Africans -- more than in any other country, according to the United Nations. The pandemic killed more than 3 million people this year.

Messages from former President Clinton and civil rights activist the Rev. Jesse Jackson were broadcast on a screen at the back of the stage.

MTV will broadcast the concert globally Monday on World AIDS Day. Proceeds are going to the Nelson Mandela Foundation, whose work includes research on HIV, the virus that causes AIDS.

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