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South African elder statesman Nelson Mandela, who turns 86 on Sunday, said he could receive no better birthday gift than a commitment by the world to take "real and urgent action against Aids"
In a speech interrupted by loud applause and capped by a standing ovation at the closing ceremony of the International Aids Conference on Friday, Mandela said he "cannot rest until I am certain that the global response is sufficient to turn the tide of the epidemic".
Mandela has led international dignitaries in raising awareness about Aids, especially in Africa where about 25-million of the world's 38-million HIV infected people live. He runs an Aids foundation called 46664, named after his prison number during his incarceration in apartheid South Africa.
Mandela noted that he will turn 86 on Sunday.
"There could be no better birthday gift than knowing that there is renewed commitment from leaders in every sector of society to take real and urgent action against Aids," he said.
"We know what needs to be done -- all that is missing is the will to do it. Allow me to enjoy my retirement by showing that you can rise to the challenge."
The 46664 foundation has highlighted the need for providing anti-retroviral treatment and the needs of marginalised populations such as refugees, migrant workers, intravenous drug users, prisoners and sex workers.
Mandela called on donors to increase substantially their funding for the fight against Aids, saying his plea is not only to governments, but also to the private sector, private foundations and every global citizen.
"History will surely judge us harshly if we do not respond with all the energy and resources that we can bring to bear in the fight against HIV/Aids." -- Sapa-AP