November 22, 2004
On Tuesday, the Nelson Mandela Foundation is launching a radio and TV campaign in which the former South African president and Hollywood star Brad Pitt encourage people to volunteer to fight HIV/AIDS in the nation.
"They are our brothers and sisters and they are entitled to our compassion and support," Mandela says in the ad. "We must act and act now," Pitt adds.
The toll-free number -- 0800046664 -- uses Mandela's prison cell number -- 46664 -- by which he was identified during his 27 years in prison under apartheid. The hotline will become operational on Tuesday and will remain up through the end of December. Before being assigned to organizations, volunteers will be trained and sensitized to the work.
John Samuel, CEO of the foundation, said the project aims to "galvanize the whole of South Africa behind this issue." Olive Shisana, who chairs the foundation's HIV/AIDS advisory group, said the campaign targets the "white community and the educated black community," whose response to the epidemic has tended to be more apathetic.
"Close to 26 percent of workers in [the mining industry] are infected or affected," said business leader Tokyo Sexwale. "There is a need for us to stem the tide ... We are asking for more hands but in the name of Nelson Mandela."
Another angle of the campaign, said foundation trustee Irene Menell, will be to destigmatize AIDS and do away with the idea that "there is something culpable about people acquiring HIV/AIDS."