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Global Community Reacts To Death Of Nelson Mandela, Reflects On His Contributions To Global AIDS Response

“Nelson Mandela, who led the emancipation of South Africa from white minority rule and served as his country’s first black president, becoming an international emblem of dignity and forbearance, died Thursday night. He was 95,” the New York Times reports (Keller, 12/5). “Tributes began flooding in almost immediately for a man who was an iconic global symbol of struggle against injustice and of racial reconciliation,” Reuters notes, adding, “U.S. President Barack Obama said the world had lost ‘one of the most influential, courageous and profoundly good human beings that any of us will share time with on this earth'” (Cropley/Fletcher, 12/5). “Madiba’s ‘long walk to freedom’ gave new meaning to courage, character, forgiveness, and human dignity. … He will be remembered as a pioneer for peace,” U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said in a statement (12/5). “Mandela’s commitment to overcome prejudice and hate inspired not only his determination to break down barriers between different races, but also to eliminate discrimination against those living with HIV, calling on people to give publicity to HIV/AIDS and no longer to hide it,” WHO Director-General Margaret Chan said in a press release (12/6).

Mandela “devoted much of his time to advocating for access to HIV treatment, ending stigma and ensuring all babies are born HIV free,” UNAIDS writes in a press statement, adding, “He used his stature and presence on the global stage to persuade world leaders to act decisively on AIDS and tuberculosis” (12/5). “[T]he spark he ignited in fighting AIDS, poverty, hunger and supporting more than 50 charities in his lifetime will continue to live on, advocates say,” the Huffington Post’s “Impact” blog writes (Goldberg/Prois, 12/6). “Mandela defied the stigma and shame that kept AIDS deaths cloaked in euphemism across Africa — because, even though by that point [in 2005, when he announced his son had died of AIDS,] 800 people were dying of AIDS in South Africa every day, no one would say so out loud,” the Globe and Mail notes (Nolen, 12/5). “After Mr. Mandela left office in 1999, he campaigned for more research into HIV/AIDS, for education about safe sex and for better treatment for those affected,” according to BBC News (12/5). “Mandela’s most significant contribution to the fight against AIDS may have been his intervention at the international AIDS conference in Durban in July 2000,” where he delivered “a speech that changed the AIDS agenda,” “rallied world opinion to the side of action and muted the opposition of the South African government to treatment,” The Guardian adds (Boseley, 12/5). Devex highlights “some of his most memorable quotes on education, global health and poverty” (Villarino, 12/6).