Celebs to attend Aids conference amid tight security

Johannesburg - A veritable Who's-Who of global and local celebrities will attend the International Aids Conference in Durban over the coming week amid "uncompromising" security, the inter-ministerial committee (IMC) announced on Sunday.

"Among the dignitaries who will add to the impact of this conference are United Nations Secretary-General Mr Ban Ki Moon, Prince Harry, Ms Charlize Theron and Mr Elton John, all of whom are globally renowned for their activist leadership in this cause," said IMC chairperson, Minister Jeff Radebe, in a statement ahead of the conference, now in its 21st year.

Radebe gave the assurance in the wake of recent terrorist attacks and insecurity around the world that South Africa had put in place "uncompromising security measures" for the conference.

"It is with such developments in mind that South African authorities have gone to great lengths… to ensure that delegates and our own citizens will be safe."

Police patrols, both on foot and in vehicles, would take place throughout the event.

Radebe said it was hoped the conference would lead to history-making strides in pushing back the frontiers of HIV, AIDS and TB.

"The world must be a better place as a result of our deliberations in Durban."

South Africa will host the conference for the second time this year. In 2000, the conference also took place on South African soil.

“The year 2000 was a time at which South Africa’s HIV response was incomparable to the progress we have made in recent years,” said Radebe.

The timing of this year's conference was auspicious, he said. "We are excited at the prospect of a rainbow of humanity from all over the globe gathering in South Africa at a time when we observe – with acts of kindness and charity – International Nelson Mandela Day."

The conference is being held at Durban's international convention centre under the theme of "access equity rights now".

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