Message by President Nelson Mandela on World Aids Day

1 December 1995

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

Throughout the world, people use this day to re-affirm their commitment and dedication to stemming the further spread of this pandemic, to providing care and support to those already infected or affected by the AIDS virus. South Africans join the world community on this day through a range of special events that are organised throughout the country.

This year's theme for World AIDS Day is "Shared Rights, Shared Responsibilities". As South Africans we are able to identify closely with this theme as we have recently ensured that all people share political rights, and share the responsibility of governing. AIDS poses a major threat to the reconstruction process underway. It is estimated that approximately 2 million South Africans are already infected with the AIDS virus, and approximately 10 000 people have already progressed to AIDS. In the past 5 years we have experienced a 10 fold increase in HIV infection in the population. Most affected are youth, women and migrant workers. Factors such as the status of women in society, child abuse, migrant labour, unemployment, lack of housing, illiteracy, sexual prejudice, discrimination in the workplace and other settings have contributed, and continue to contribute, to the rapid spread of the virus in South Africa.

We need to ensure that we provide the supportive environment to afford people the capacity to protect themselves through increasing access to condoms, drugs for sexually transmitted diseases, access to health care and testing and counselling facilities. At all times we must speak out against the stigma, blame, shame and denial that has thus far been associated with this epidemic. Through our actions let us demonstrate that as a country we are in the forefront of protecting the rights of people with HIV and acting on our responsibilities to stem the epidemic and ensure a caring and supportive environment.

I urge all South Africans to participate actively in the special events being held throughout the country - wear a red ribbon as a symbol of your solidarity and support us as we take on the challenge posed by this new threat. Let us ensure that by December 1, 1996, we are facing a very different South Africa - one where all citizens are able to protect themselves from infection, where people with HIV/AIDS are given all possible support so that we may all share the benefits of our newly found freedom.

Now is the time to work together to combat AIDS.

Source: Nelson Mandela Foundation