Address by President Nelson Mandela on World Aids Day

1 December 1994

On December 1, South Africa and the international community mark World AIDS Day.

The fact that we can now observe this day as a democratic country gives us the rare opportunity to co-operate as a nation in addressing this most pressing problem. It is estimated that in some parts of our country, already one out of ten people are infected with the AIDS virus. And the epidemic is spreading rapidly. Young people, in particular, face the highest risk.

It is appropriate that this year's theme for World AIDS Day is "The Family and AIDS". For it is in the family that the values required to combat this plague can be popularised. Mutual trust and support, particularly between parents and children, is crucial in spreading awareness about AIDS; and preventing it. Above all, we need to work together in eradicating the legacy of apartheid, including homelessness, illiteracy, the lack of health facilities, the migrant labour system and bad living conditions - all of which have created fertile ground for the spread of AIDS.

But public awareness around AIDS is needed today; not tomorrow.

The challenge of today, to youth and adults alike, is to make lifestyle choices which help to combat this epidemic.

World AIDS Day also brings to the fore the message of tolerance and support. As individuals and as a nation, we need to treat relatives, friends and other compatriots who are infected, with compassion. This applies more so to orphans and infected children.

The campaign against AIDS is the task of all of us - young and old, government and community organisations, religious and traditional institutions, cultural and sporting bodies. AIDS knows no custom. It knows no colour. It knows no boundaries. We have to work together wherever we are to preserve our nation, our continent and humanity as a whole.

As Government, we will continue to take active part in AIDS-awareness initiatives. We will continue to allocate as much resources as Government can afford, to combat this epidemic. However, success in this campaign will depend on the input of all sectors of society.

Now is the time to work together to combat AIDS.

Source: Nelson Mandela Foundation