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South Africa's three Nobel Peace Prize winners—Nelson Mandela, F.W De Klerk and Archbishop Desmond Tutu—have launched a prayer for HIV/AIDS campaign, calling for an end to the silence and stigmatization surrounding the disease.

The opening prayer service at St Mary's Anglican Cathedral in Johannesburg on December 6 represented the strongest commitment yet by prominent personalities to address AIDS in South Africa, where 4.2 million people (10 percent of the population) are estimated to be infected with HIV.

Eighty-two-year-old Mandela, who was helped up the pulpit steps, said South Africa lagged behind other African countries in coming to terms with Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (AIDS). He called on South Africans to draw inspiration from the late Diana, Princess of Wales, urging them to follow her example, to "hold hands, embrace, give love because the spirit of life is sometimes more important than medicine."

Wearing an AIDS pin in the center of his trademark bright shirt, the former South African president called on South Africans to draw on the "human capacity our culture blessed us with" in the struggle against apartheid and use it to vanquish AIDS, "which is killing more people than the wars of the past and the famines put together'."

In its latest figures, released on December 1—World AIDS Day—the United Nations estimated that 25.3 million Africans were living with HIV or had developed AIDS-related illnesses. The International Labor Organization estimated that five countries, including South Africa, could expect to lose up to a quarter of their workforce to AIDS by 2020.

South Africa's churches have generally been slow to respond to the pandemic, partly out of awkwardness in talking about sex, but also because the ...

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