Gere Reinforces Fight Against HIV/AIDS
With Monday marking the 15th anniversary of World AIDS Day, Richard Gere has decided to get personal. While in India this week, the actor announced his own campaign to join together Bollywood stars, sports personalities, business leaders and government officials to battle HIV/AIDS and focus attention on the disease, the Associated Press reports.
"There is a lot of de-stigmatization that is needed," Gere, 54, tells the news service. As for joining forces with various sectors of the Indian community, the "Chicago" star said: "We've touched each other because of our genuine commitment to this issue, and my own commitment that I'm not going away and I'll be back again and again and again."
Gere, who has paid spiritual visits to India since the 1970s, said he hopes his "Heroes Project" program would spark more talk about AIDS in the Indian media. "If you work with the creative community," Gere said, "the incredible power of industry, then bring in the government and the judicial system, you can solve any problem."
On Tuesday, AP reports, Gere took to visiting Bombay's dingy brothels, to get the word out on how AIDS needs to be stopped and ways that it may be prevented.
In Geneva, Switzerland, on Monday, the World Health Organization and UNAIDS marked AIDS Day with by announcing their "3 by 5" program, which by the end of 2005 seeks to give anti-retroviral treatment to three million people with HIV in developing countries.
The announcement coincided with scores of other international events for World AIDS Day, including candlelight vigils, concerts, educational seminars and torchlight parades.
The day also served to remind the public of the growing epidemic. Only last week, the United Nations reported that 2003 witnessed more deaths and new infections form the virus than ever before.
The situation sparked a warning from Secretary-General Kofi Annan that the world is losing its war on AIDS. According to U.N. statistics, more than 3 million people were killed and another 5 million were infected in 2003 alone. Statistics show that every day another 8,000 people die from the illness.
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