Message by Nelson Mandela on World AIDS Day

1 December 2006

Twenty five years into the AIDS epidemic, it is an opportune moment, this World AIDS Day, for all of us to take stock and reflect on both our achievements and failures, make sense of what works and move forward boldly in dealing with its continuing devastating impact.

Over the last quarter of a century twenty five million people have died as a result of AIDS, and today forty million people live with HIV. AIDS is an exceptional disease and requires an equally exceptional response.

It requires ongoing leadership at international, national and indeed, at community level. We applaud the increased regional collaboration demonstrated by various bodies around the world.

One of the greatest challenges we face is gaping – and growing - disparities in the response to HIV between countries and regions around the world. AIDS related stigma and discrimination is pervasive and a real barrier to stopping the expansion of this disease.

The vast majority of the 40 million estimated people living with HIV are unaware of their status. Fear of being stigmatized is a great factor. It requires bold and visible action by top leadership - at all levels of society - to root out this deadly form of discrimination.

It is evident, that as we contemplate the next 25 years of this epidemic, we should remind ourselves that AIDS remains very much a human rights issue. Let me reiterate: we have to act, we have act decisively and above all, we must work together. The answer to turning around the devastating impact of this epidemic lies within us.

Thank you.

Source: Nelson Mandela Foundation