We all have Aids, if one of us does

Mary Alexander

8 December 2005

If one of us has Aids, we all have it. That's the message of We All Have Aids, a campaign launched by international shoe designer Kenneth Cole on World Aids Day. The campaign hinges on a black-and-white photograph of 25 prominent Aids activists, three of them from South Africa.

Former President Nelson Mandela, Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu and Treatment Action Campaign leader Zackie Achmat were the South Africans joining Will Smith, Elizabeth Taylor, Elton John, Sharon Stone, Tom Hanks and other celebrity Aids activists to have their photos taken for the campaign.

Kami, the five-year-old HIV-positive muppet from Takalani Sesame, the South African version of Sesame Street, was also photographed.

Given the high profile of the activists, each was photographed separately. Photographer Mark Seliger started in New York and Los Angeles, where most of the actors had assembled for the Academy Awards, before moving on to Cape Town and George, where they caught up with Mandela and Achmat at a 46664 concert.

All were asked to pose barefoot for the photograph and make an imprint of their feet in wet cement. Mandela was the only one to decline.

"We managed to get Nelson Mandela to agree to participate, so no, we didn't push our luck," Cole said.

The photographs from the campaign, as well as the cement footprints, form part of a public exhibition that was unveiled on World Aids Day in New York's Bryant Park.

Go to the We All Have Aids campaign website

"The We All Have Aids Campaign is a show of solidarity among, and an acknowledgment of, many of the world's most accomplished, devoted and inspiring Aids activists and scientists of the last 20 years," says the campaign website.

"Barefoot and determined, each participant has left a meaningful mark in cement, but more importantly in the fight against HIV/Aids and the destructive stigma associated with this devastating disease."

Besides working to remove the stigma of Aids, the campaign aims to consolidate and find common ground between organisations working to fight the pandemic.

Nelson Mandela in the We All Have Aids campaign

Nelson Mandela
"Former South African President Nelson Mandela is deeply concerned about the impact of Aids, not only in South Africa, but around the world," reads the campaign profile of Mandela.

"Through his Nelson Mandela Children's Fund, he is on the front line, fighting the disease with Aids education, health care and support programmes.

"Upon losing his son to Aids, Mandela pronounced, 'Let us give publicity to HIV/Aids and not hide it, because [that is] the only way to make it appear like a normal illness.' He has said, 'One of the things that is destroying people with Aids is the stigma which we attach to it.'

"The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization has made former President Mandela a Goodwill Ambassador in recognition of his exemplary contribution to international peace and understanding."

Desmond Tutu in the We All Have Aids campaign

Desmond Tutu
A prominent and extremely vocal opponent of apartheid in the 1980s, Archbishop Desmond Tutu was the first black South African Anglican Archbishop of Cape Town, and primate of the Church of the Province of Southern Africa.

Tutu was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1984. In 2000, he founded the Desmond Tutu Peace Foundation to raise funds for the Desmond Tutu Peace Centre in Cape Town.

Tutu, the campaign website notes, "has likened the fight against Aids to that of apartheid, saying, 'In the battle against apartheid, the solidarity of people from around the world, including millions of Americans, strengthened us in some of our darkest moments. Now, as we continue the battle against HIV/Aids, we need the same solidarity, the same passion, the same commitment and energy.'"

Zackie Achmat in the We All Have Aids campaign

Zackie Achmat
"Zackie Achmat has been called South Africa's most important dissident since President Nelson Mandela," the website states. "Achmat's message 'is not about being proud to come out and admit that the disease is with us, it's about being realistic. That's when fighting it can begin.'"

Achmat was named Time magazine's Person of the Week in April 2001, and received the Desmond Tutu Leadership Award later that year. "Achmat's energies are now focused on getting the government to finalise a long-delayed national treatment strategy."

The other activists

  • Dr David Baltimore - California Institute of Technology
  • Harry Belafonte - United Nations Children's Fund goodwill ambassador
  • Leigh Blake - Founder, president and CEO, Keep a Child Alive
  • Bono - Founder of DATA (TBD)
  • Richard Gere - Founder of the Gere Foundation, board member of Healing the Divide, sponsor of Elizabeth Glaser Pediatric Aids Foundation, Amfar and Aids Research Alliance
  • Whoopi Goldberg - Goodwill ambassador for the American Health Foundation
  • Tom Hanks - Ambassador to Freeplay Foundation
  • Elton John and David Furnish - Elton John Aids Foundation
  • Ashley Judd - Board of directors for PSI YouthAids
  • Alicia Keys - Spokesperson for Keep a Child Alive
  • Larry Kramer - Founder of Gay Men's Health Crisis
  • Mathilde Krim - Founding chairperson of Amfar
  • Eric McCormack - Project Angelfood
  • Rosie O'Donnell - Founder, Rosie's Broadway Kids
  • Natasha Richardson - National Aids Trust ambassador
  • Will Smith - Ambassador for the Nelson Mandela Foundation and host of Mandela's 2005 46664 concert
  • Dr Suniti Solomon - Set up first voluntary youth testing and counselling centre and Aids Research Group in Chennai
  • Sharon Stone - Chairperson, Amfar's Campaign for Aids Research
  • Elizabeth Taylor - Founding international chairperson of Amfar and the founder of the Elizabeth Taylor Aids Foundation.
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Former South African President Nelson Mandela takes centre stage in the We All Have Aids campaign photograph, with Archbishop Desmond Tutu on his right (Image: We All Have Aids)


Kami, the five-year-old HIV-positive muppet from Takalani Sesame, the South African version of Sesame Street, was also photographed for the We All Have Aids campaign (Image: We All Have Aids)
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