CAPE TOWN, South Africa – Cape Town's former Anglican Archbishop Desmond Tutu said Tuesday that South Africa has changed its AIDS policy and no longer should be ashamed of its policies to combat the epidemic.
"For many years we were embarrassed in international gatherings for what we were not doing in fighting AIDS. We therefore thank the Minister of Health Aaron Motsoaledi for the change in policy," said Tutu, who is officially retired but still working to bring peace and progress to the world.
In 2009, President Jacob Zuma pledged an ambitious testing and treatment campaign and more vigorous anti-AIDS efforts. Motsoaledi leads the campaign, and has been praised by AIDS activists who had repeatedly clashed with a previous health minister who promoted beets and garlic as AIDS treatment and questioned the link between HIV and AIDS.
"We are definitely joining hands with the rest of the world in the fight against HIV/AIDS. I think we will win," said Motsoaledi, who joined Tutu at a U.N. conference devoted to getting a new generation of activists involved in spreading the message about preventing AIDS.
Tutu, a veteran anti-apartheid campaigner, has taken on other crises since the end of white minority rule. He announced last year he was retiring from public life, but he remains active on an array of social and political issues. Earlier this week he was in Ivory Coast, urging reconciliation after a disputed election led to months of chaos and violence in that West African country.
Tung Bui, 24, of an AIDS organization called Youth Lead from Vietnam, called Tuesday's meeting with Tutu inspirational. It was held on Robben Island, near Cape Town, where the prison where Nelson Mandela was held during apartheid has been turned into a museum.
"We are ready to make a difference in the lives of many who have been infected while preventing future infections," Bui said.
Tutu said: "It is a very rare privilege and honor for us the older ones to say we are passing the baton to you the young to carry on with the fight against this pandemic."