Celebrities join Stop AIDS campaign

 Celebrities, academics, church leaders and activists from around the world took part in a number of events over the weekend to galvanise government and the public to help stop the spread of HIV/AIDS. On Thursday a group gathered at the London Eye. They included actress Michelle Collins, actor Andrew Lincoln, journalist and former independent MP Martin Bell, weather presenter Sian Lloyd, singer Joan Armatrading, comedian Faith Brown, dancer Lionel Blair and singer and TV presenter Patti Boulaye. Human rights campaigner Bianca Jagger, who earlier this month went to India with Christian Aid to visit community projects working with HIV/AIDS, said: "This is a very important event because Britain has to realise that this epidemic is causing devastation throughout the developing world. One of the most serious effects is on children; not only are they being orphaned by the disease, but millions of children are now being infected themselves." Soul singer Beverley Knight, who returned from a trip to Brazil in October with Christian Aid, said:"Seeing the heroic work that Christian Aid partners do to help the poorest of the poor who are living with HIV/AIDS changed my life forever." HIV/AIDS campaigner Noreen Kaleeba from Zimbabwe spoke movingly to campaigners about her husband who died of AIDS 16 years ago, and her work in Africa. She said: "There are men, women and children living with HIV/AIDS and caring for others with the minimum of resources." The event was organised by the Stop AIDS Campaign, an alliance of 22 leading development and HIV/AIDS groups. Yesterday many religious services took place around the country to mark World AIDS Day. The Stop AIDS campaign delivered thousands of postcards to Downing Street, calling for the government to to do more in the fight against HIV/AIDS. - 42 million people now live with HIV/AIDS worldwide - 1 out of every 150 people. - More than half - 22.4 million - are women and children. - HIV and AIDS claims 8,500 lives every day. - Over 95 per cent of people with HIV live in developing countries, often without access to medical, nutritional, or educational support. - AIDS has orphaned 13 million children. This number is forecast to more than double by 2010. - In 1999, three times more people died from HIV and AIDS worldwide than from war, murder and violence. Statistics: UNAIDS Source: Christian Aid

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