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Star-studded concert highlights World AIDS Day

  • Story Highlights
  • Nelson Mandela hosts the fifth "46664" concert in South Africa
  • Event raises awareness, remembers those who have died, pushes for a cure
  • More than 2 million people have died of AIDS this year
  • More than 33 million people worldwide have HIV -- the virus that can lead to AIDS
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JOHANNESBURG, South Africa (CNN) -- Surrounded by some of the biggest names in music, former South African President Nelson Mandela sounded another call to arms Saturday in the battle against HIV/AIDS.

Using the prison number assigned to him during his 27 years behind bars during the apartheid era, Mandela hosted the fifth 46664 concert in Johannesburg.

It was the highlight of World AIDS Day, marked each year on December 1.

The events are aimed at raising awareness, remembering those who have died and pushing for a cure.

In following this year's concert theme "It's In Our Hands," Mandela and celebrities stressed that much of the success in overcoming the disease depends on people taking responsibility for their actions.

"If we are to stop the AIDS epidemic from expanding, we have to break the cycle of new HIV infections. All of us working together -- government, communities and civil society -- can make the difference," he said. Video Watch the crowd applaud Mandela »

"Start off by protecting yourself and your loved ones, talk openly about HIV and AIDS. Urge those around you to change their attitudes to people living with HIV," Mandela, 89, urged between songs.

"We are making every effort to reach into communities because we believe that the answer is in our hands. We have all resolved that if we are to stop the AIDS epidemic from expanding, we have to break the cycle of new HIV infections."

More than 33 million people worldwide have HIV -- the virus that can lead to AIDS -- according to the United Nations. Most of them are in sub-Saharan Africa. That number represents a drop, however, from 39 million in 2006, which is partly attributed to more accurate counts.

Officials in Kenya, Zimbabwe and the Ivory Coast also say greater awareness and better behavior have contributed to a drop in HIV cases.

More than 2 million people have died of AIDS this year -- including 330,000 children. Photo See AIDS Day events around the world »

"I think music has a very, very major part, because when you have this many artists come together from different parts of the world, and you have a concert this big, I think it's one of the ways to reach a lot of people," rap star and hip-hop artist Ludacris told the concert crowd.

"But like I said before, it's all about each individual taking responsibility and spreading the message themselves." Video Watch Ludacris talk about his 'overwhelming experience' in South Africa »

Singer Annie Lennox added, "There is a kind of genocide taking place here when you are ignoring something that could be tackled properly with treatment. It's not acceptable."

Supermodel Naomi Campbell encouraged people to get over their fear of being tested -- "You need to know. You need to protect yourself."

In the United States, a report out this week on Washington, D.C., says the U.S. capital leads the nation in AIDS cases with 128 per 100,000 residents. That compares to a national average of 14. Video Watch a report on AIDS in Washington »

HIV/AIDS is transmitted almost evenly by gay sex, heterosexual sex and needles used to inject drugs, the report says.

The disease has been especially devastating in the African-American community. Since the epidemic began, about 42 percent of those diagnosed with AIDS in the United States have been black. See why AIDS is a health crisis for African-Americans »

Efforts are under way to make sure African-American victims are represented on what's become a symbol of national and personal grief: The AIDS quilt. Fewer than 400 of 47,000 quilt panels honor African-Americans, according to the quilt's curator. See how one quilter picked items to remember her brother »

Meanwhile, President Bush is asking Congress for an additional $15 billion to continue and expand the President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief, a program approved by Congress after he announced it in his 2003 State of the Union address.

Despite some successes, the plan has been criticized for requiring that participating groups emphasize abstinence education. Video Watch a report on AIDS and abstinence »


On Friday, Bush revealed plans to visit sub-Saharan Africa early next year to see the program at work.

The White House says the plan has treated more than 1.3 million people with AIDS. Increased funding would boost that number to 2.5 million while expanding AIDS prevention programs and offering care to millions more with AIDS. E-mail to a friend E-mail to a friend

CNN's Robyn Curnow and Lisa Desjardins contributed to this report.

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