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Queen Latifah, grannies join mass anti-AIDS rallies in S.Africa

US singer and actress Queen Latifah joined a mass anti-AIDS march in the South African city of Durban Saturday, where grandmothers bringing up children orphaned by the disease also took to the streets.

Holding up signs that read “I care, do you?”, around a thousand grandmothers walked in a colourful procession to draw attention to their plight, as the coastal city readies to host a global AIDS conference from Monday.

“Life is very difficult for us grandmothers,” said 63-year-old Thandiswa Ndovela from the Eastern Cape region, who lost two daughters to AIDS and is now caring for eight grandchildren.

“I have to fend for all these children and no one is helping me out. I felt a strong need to come here and share my plight with other elderly women like me from all over South Africa.”

A second rally later in the day, entitled “Keep your Promises” also took place, this time bringing many young people onto the streets of Durban.

They were joined by Queen Latifah and South African Health Minister Aaron Motsoaledi.

South Africa has been ravaged by AIDS, with around two million children orphaned by the disease, according to the UN children’s agency UNICEF.

Nineteen-year-old Siyabonga Khumalo from Mayville, a sprawling informal settlement on the outskirts of Durban, said he went for regular HIV tests after seeing many people die “because of ignorance”.

Britain’s Prince Harry and pop star Elton John are among the high-profile guests scheduled to speak at the five-day “AIDS 2016” gathering in Durban.

They will be joined by some 18,000 scientists, campaigners, donors and lawmakers discussing how to tackle a pandemic that has claimed more than 30 million lives in 35 years.

Prince Harry publicly underwent an HIV test on Thursday to raise awareness about combating the virus.

The 31-year-old royal has made highlighting the issues surrounding HIV and AIDS a major part of his public work, continuing the efforts of his late mother Diana, princess of Wales.

Harry’s test came back negative.