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French first lady says AIDS is a personal affair

Dec 1, 2009

PARIS, Dec 1, 2009 (AFP) - French first lady Carla Bruni-Sarkozy said Tuesday 1 December she had witnessed first-hand the toll that AIDS took on the fashion industry in the 1980s and spoke about her brother's death from the disease.

Photo: AFP/File/Johana Leguerre

"I have witnessed the damage that HIV has caused for humanity for some 20 years now," said Bruni-Sarkozy in an interview to TV5Monde television on World AIDS Day.

Recounting her years as a supermodel, Bruni-Sarkozy said "the fashion world was hit head-on by the AIDS pandemic. It really did lose members of its family."

"The fashion industry became aware about this disease very, very early on, because it was a victim of it," she added.

Bruni-Sarkozy, who lost her brother Virginio to AIDS in 2006, last year became an ambassador for the Geneva-based Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria.

The supermodel-turned-singer has called for greater access to AIDS-fighting drugs to eliminate mother-to-child HIV transmission in poor countries by 2015.

"I am personally very sensitive about this issue," she said in the interview.

But the wife of President Nicolas Sarkozy stressed that her decision to join the global AIDS campaign was not directly linked to her brother's death.

"My brother unfortunately contracted HIV and he died from it," she said.

"But my role with the Global Fund is really not linked to my brother's situation.

"My brother was lucky to live in France, to be treated in France, to have access to care, have access to the best hospitals.

"I am now a spokeswoman for people who have access to nothing."

Since becoming AIDS ambassador, the 41-year Bruni-Sarkozy has travelled to Burkina Faso and visited an AIDS orphanage in Mexico.

The Elysee presidential palace for the first time displayed two large red ribbons on its columns Tuesday 1 December to mark World AIDS Day, supporting a cause dear to the first lady.

In another show of French solidarity with people living with HIV and AIDS, the lights were to be switched off for five minutes at the Eiffel Tower at 6:30 pm (1730 GMT).

The Empire State Building and the Brooklyn bridge in New York will also go dark at the same time as part of the "Light for Rights" campaign for more access to AIDS drugs.

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