Mister SF in the Associated Press
December 1, 2002

Americans Observe World AIDS Day With Songs, Stars and Prayers
By Leon Drouin Keith
Associated Press

With songs, stars and prayers, Americans recognized World AIDS Day as a time to focus on a cure, on making treatment more available around the world and on remembering the millions who have already died. 

In New York City on Sunday, the HIV + Sinikithemba Choir, composed of HIV-positive South Africans, raised their voices in Zulu and English song on a Harlem church altar. 

"To have AIDS is a stigma and we are trying to help people share the information and to accept their illness," said choir member Ntombi Mbuthu, 39, a mother of three children, all of whom tested negative for the disease. 

Mbuthu, who receives medicine through her work as a clinic counselor, is the only member of the 21-member choir who is getting treatment for HIV. The others are too poor. 

"Most South Africans don't get tested because they know there's no cure, and they cannot get the drug treatment because it's too expensive," said Mimi Badumuti, 32, who supports herself doing beadwork after losing her job as a corporate receptionist. 

Former President Clinton, in an opinion column published Sunday in The New York Times, urged governments to do more to bring treatment to the developing world, where millions of people suffer because they lack access to AIDS drugs. 

"Given that medicine can turn AIDS from a death sentence into a chronic illness and reduce mother-to-child transmission, our withholding of treatment will appear to future historians as medieval, like bloodletting," Clinton wrote. 

Irish rocker Bono kicked off a tour on World AIDS Day, but the lead singer of U2 won't be crooning: He and actress Ashley Judd were among those speaking to about 2,300 people in Lincoln, Neb., about the AIDS crisis in Africa. It was Bono's first stop in a seven-day, seven-city tour for an organization called Debt, Aid, Trade for Africa. 

In San Francisco's Golden Gate Park, about 250 people, many wearing red ribbons and some carrying flowers, gathered at the National AIDS Memorial Grove to remember those who have died from the disease and hear messages of hope for a cure. 

"I came today to remember," said Hank Donat, a 36-year-old San Francisco writer. "The gay community in San Francisco was devastated in the early years. We'll never be able to know the full breadth of the loss to our culture. But we feel it, we measure it with our hearts." 

President Bush, in his World AIDS Day proclamation, praised groups that are working to combat AIDS and help the people who suffer from it, and noted that his administration is seeking increases in spending for domestic and international AIDS programs. 

"By working together, we can provide hope and comfort to all those affected by this devastating disease," Bush said. 

About 1 million Americans are infected with HIV, which causes AIDS. Worldwide, there are 42 million HIV positive people, with sub-Saharan Africa home to 75 percent of them, according to UNAIDS, the U.N.'s AIDS agency. 

AP-ES-12-01-02 2049EST

Copyright 2002 Hank Donat
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