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It was a powerful moment when former South African President Nelson Mandela made his way to the stage with the aid of a walking stick to address tens of thousands of people in Johannesburg on December 1, World Aids Day.

“Break the cycle,” said the 89-year-old leader. “The answer is in our hands.”

Mandela was speaking at the 10-hour charity concert held at Ellis Park Stadium in the South African city to raise awareness of the country’s HIV/AIDS problem. Over 30 local and international artists joined the line-up, with proceeds going to Mandela’s 46664 AIDS program.

“It is alarming that, for every person who receives treatment, there are four others who are newly infected,” said Mandela, who appeared pleased with the concert’s attendance. “Here in South Africa we are making every effort to reach into communities because we believe the answer is in our hands. If we have to stop the AIDS epidemic from expanding, we have to break the cycle of new HIV infections. Big ambitious plans are needed to deal with the epidemic. But what really matters are small acts of kindness… such as protecting yourself.”

British based band Razorlight kicked off the international line-up, and was followed by Peter Gabriel, who included a song about anti-apartheid activist Steve Biko in his set. The singer said that the same power and intensity used to fight apartheid should be shown in the fight against HIV-Aids.

Other acts to perform included Live, Johnny Clegg, Ludacris, the Goo Goo Dolls, and Jamelia. British soul singer Corinne Bailey Rae performed one of her most stunning live sets ever, and performances were interspersed with video clips that highlighted AIDS projects.

AIDS is a human rights issue,” said singer Annie Lennox, who also performed at the concert. “It should be treated as such to avoid this genocide that is affecting millions and millions of people around the world.”

British supermodel Naomi Campbell also made a surprise appearance, and urged the crowd to do all that they can to stop the disease.

“I know it is a fearful thing,” said the 37-year-old. “Basically we cannot stress too much how important it is to protect yourself from this virus.”

Also marking World AIDS Day on December 1 was British rock group Queen. The band released their first new recording in over a decade on Saturday, available for free download on their website –

The song, “Say It Isn’t True”, features the band’s new lead singer, Paul Rodgers, who joins the original line-up of Brian May and Rodger Taylor. Freddie Mercury, the original lead singer, died of an AIDS related illness in 1991.

“By making the song available for free, we hope to help Nelson Mandela with his campaign to get across the message that no one is safe from infection,” said Taylor. “It’s a difficult subject, and [the song] is written in the first person… it’s about receiving the letter and finding out you’re HIV positive, and the sort of terrible shock and emotion and effect it has on your life.”

Queen may also perform at the next Nelson Mandela charity concert, to be held in London on June 27, 2008.

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