Address by Nelson Mandela at launch of the Nelson Mandela/HSRC study of HIV/AIDS 2002

September 2002

This is one group of people whom nobody needs or has the right to lecture on the magnitude of the challenges and the crisis posed by the HIV/AIDS pandemic.

It is rather for me to thank all of you for giving of your valuable time to attend and to contribute to this consultation on what I regard as one of the most urgent aspects of the pandemic.

The expertise and experience that you collectively bring to this meeting and this entire venture represent one of the clearest signs of hope in a battle of such enormity that it can easily give rise to despondency. It is people with your knowledge and skills, and with the unflinching commitment you bring to your work, that will ensure that we accelerate progress and win this war.

HIV/AIDS affects and poses a threat to every sector of society. No sector of society, and therefore no person, will escape its effects - how directly or indirectly it may be. But it is the effects on children that are probably the most heart-rending and that pose the greatest challenge to our sense of compassion and caring.

Children are the most vulnerable sector of society. They are affected by actions over which they had no control and in which they had no part. It is that cruel reality that keeps one awake at night when pondering all the aspects and implications of the pandemic.

We have reached such an advanced stage in the spread of the AIDS pandemic that there is almost no time left for merely feeling and thinking and talking. We are in the middle of a war that is wrecking havoc and destruction. Concrete action is what is required every day and every hour.

This meeting, too, should, lead to immediate and urgent practical outcomes. Of course, we need to do careful planning and deliberation about the actions we shall take, but every moment spent on deliberation that does not lead to decisive action, is a moment tragically wasted.

I am confident that such an experienced group of people as those gathered here, needs no reminder of the need to follow up today's meeting with such concrete and practical steps. All of you are engaged in an on-going way with combating HIV/AIDS. I know that you will use today to seek for practical outcomes and that you will incorporate those outcomes in the work you do on a daily basis.

This meeting must come up with concrete and practical ideas about what can be done to mobilise and use the resources and the people of Africa and the world in response to the needs of children orphaned by HIV/AIDS.

This group is small enough for us to have meaningful discussions without unnecessarily spending time and energy on theory and intellectual debates. Those present here are specialists, policy-makers and practitioners acutely aware of the urgency of the challenge to action.

I once again wish to thank you for your attendance and pay tribute to the important work you are doing in your various fields of activity. Together we can and must win this war against the most serious scourge humankind has faced in centuries. Today's work will be important to advance that struggle.

I thank you

Source: Nelson Mandela Foundation