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Secretary Powell Sees AIDS in Africa Firsthand

On his trip to Africa, one of Secretary of State Colin Powell's major themes is US concern over the fast-spreading AIDS epidemic there.

Today's stop: South Africa, with the world's highest AIDS infection rate. Powell visited a clinic in Soweto Township and talked with AIDS orphans. But these scenes only hint at the true extent of the problem, as CBS's Mark Phillips found, on assignment in South Africa.

In the remote hills and valleys of the South African hinterland, Colin Powell's call for hope will mean little to those already beyond hope.

Nana Mpofana is living out her last days in the province of Kwazulu-Natal, the epicenter of the epidemic, where at least one-third of the population has HIV/AIDS--the highest infection rate in the world.

These health workers make their rounds on a trail of misery whose final stop, invariably, is death. So strong is the fear and the stigma of AIDS here that Nana would only admit to her disease, health worker Princess Cele says, because of local superstition.

She discloses that she was told by someone else if you keep quiet you will die not in peace.

In peace or not, Nana will die in plenty of company. Sipho Nqoko thought he only had TB until this visit. The news he has AIDS means he will likely be among the 6 million victims expected to die here before the end of this decade.

And the $200 million earmarked thus far by the US will do little in a battle the UN says will take at least $7 billion a year.

Whatever the arguments over the amount of the United States's contribution to the AIDS fight, the effect on those already afflicted here is basically zero. Stopping--even limiting--the epidemic would take a level of international investment and a local political will that thus far simply do not exist.

It's a virtual death sentence to 10-year-old Bongenkile Mthuli, whose parents died of AIDS and who is HIV positive herself. Her two younger brothers are infected as well. But the children do not know why their parents died.

By the end of this decade there will be over 2 million AIDS orphans in South Africa. The well-meaning words of visiting foreign statesmen alone will do little to change that dire prediction.
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