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13 Moments in Black Celebrity HIV/AIDS Activism

February 7, 2013


Nelson Mandela

Nelson Mandela Founds "46664" (2002)

Nelson Mandela is a world-famous anti-apartheid activist and politician who was president of South Africa from 1994 to 1999. Mandela was sentenced to life in prison in 1964 and given the prison number 46664 ("four double six six four"), as he was the 466th prisoner at the Robben Island prison in the year 1964. In 1994, four years after his release from prison, Nelson Mandela became the president of South Africa, which has one of the highest HIV prevalence rates in the entire world. Mandela often says his biggest regret during his presidency was not paying enough attention to the AIDS epidemic -- and the AIDS epidemic hit him personally in 2005 when his son passed away.

Since the end of his presidency, he has become an extremely outspoken AIDS activist, and has founded the 46664 Foundation. Mandela gave his prison number to the organization "as a permanent reminder of the sacrifices he was prepared to make for a humanitarian and social just cause he passionately believed in." In attempting to engage youth all over the world, 46664 has been responsible for high-profile 46664 concerts over the past few years. Concerts have been held in South Africa, Spain, Norway and London, featuring very high profile acts like Beyonce, U2, Annie Lennox and Jimmy Cliff.

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Reader Comments:

Comment by: Peter (Atlanta,Georgia.) Sat., Dec. 28, 2013 at 12:37 pm UTC
The Comment Marvelyn Brown made was really quite stupid. She initially thought only Gay Men and Africans were susceptible or at risk for HIV. Ignorance.
My problem with her and many others is that African Americans see themselves as superior and different from Africans just because they were born in America. If HIV doesn't kill you, Ignorance will.
And what is it about Africans that makes them more at risk.... same thing ignorance and poverty. We Blacks in America are just as vulnerable as African Blacks.
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Comment by: AnAppealToCommonSense (USA) Fri., Feb. 15, 2013 at 4:06 am UTC
Hi. I don't think Nelson Mandela should be included in this list. While his struggle against apartheid was admirable and he had an enormous task of uniting the nation once elected, one of the biggest problems of his presidency was ignoring the growing HIV/AIDS epidemic in South Africa. If you're going to include a former or current African president, Dr. Kenneth Kaunda of Zambia is a better choice, as he was the first to publicly admit to his son having died of AIDS and has been involved in HIV/AIDS work since. I'd say Yoweri Museveni of Uganda, too, but his recent stances on condoms and homosexuality are negating his past leadership (Kaunda, along with Festus Mogae, back gay rights). And I'd also say that 46664 is nowhere near as important as the work Zachie Achmat with Treatment Action Campaign (I know he's considered "colored" in SA, so I'm thinking he must have some black ancestry) or the late Winston Zulu in Zambia, both widely known HIV/AIDS activists. If this is only about Black Americans, then why is Nelson Mandela included? Again, I admire the man for much of his work, but he's already received enough accolades, and his inclusion comes at the expense of others who are more deserving of praise in this topic.
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