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Beyonce and Bono Headline AIDS Concert for Mandela

CAPE TOWN, SOUTH AFRICA (November 29, 2003) BBC NEWS
Beyonce Knowles and Bono were among global stars who performed at Nelson Mandela’s South Africa gig to boost the fight against Aids.

The five-hour charity show, at the Greenpoint Stadium in Cape Town was broadcast on the web.

The duo sang American Prayer, accompanied on the guitar by U2’s The Edge and Eurythmics’ Dave Stewart.

The show, organised by the Nelson Mandela Foundation, also featured Eurythmics, The Corrs and Queen.

Bono said his song with Beyonce was about asking “churches to open their doors, to give sanctuary that breaks the stigma that goes with being HIV positive”.

He added: “If God loves you, what’s the problem?”

He then brought former South African President Mr Mandela onto the stage, prompting the biggest cheer of the evening.

Mr Mandela, 85, who watched the show alongside his wife Graca Machel and US TV presenter Oprah Winfrey, has said Aids is a bigger challenge than apartheid.

In South Africa there are more people living with HIV/Aids than anywhere else in the world, and globally the number of those infected is now more than 42 million.

“Aids is no longer just a disease. It is a human rights issue,” said Mr Mandela.

“46664 was my prison number for the 18 years that I was imprisoned on Robben Island. I was supposed to be reduced to that number.”

He added that “millions of people infected with HIV and Aids are in danger of being reduced to mere numbers unless we act. They too are serving a prison sentence for life so I have allowed my prison number to help drive this campaign”.

Thousands of music fans lined the stage for the outdoor show, which featured a huge sculpture of Mr Mandela’s head.

Bob Geldof, who was knighted for his work to overcome famine in Africa with the Live Aid show in the 80s, also sang and spoke to the crowds.

“Aids is political when the rich parts of the world can develop drugs to fight it but the poor parts of the world can’t have them.” said Bob Geldof. “Aids has ceased to be something to be ashamed of – it’s just another medical condition, but if the condition is medical the solution is political. And that’s what we’re here to reinforce today.”

The overall aim for the show was to make it the most widely distributed and broadcast programme on HIV/Aids ever, reaching a global TV, radio and online audience of about two billion.

Peter Gabriel sang his song, Biko, with the Soweto Gospel Choir, saying he was delighted he now had the “chance to sing it in this country”.

Steve Biko, a leader of the black consciousness movement in South Africa, died of major head injuries in South African police custody on 12 September 1977.

The concert also featured recorded messages from well-known faces including former US President Bill Clinton, Robert De Niro, Sir Ian McKellen and Annie Lennox.

And crowds heard a song requested by Mr Mandela, who asked Dave Stewart of Eurythmics and the late Joe Strummer to write a song including 46664 in its lyrics for the show.