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Ukraine Reels from Massive Russian Missile Strikes; Israeli Demonstrators Snarl Traffic in Ongoing Protests; CNN Speaks with Siamak Namazi, Detained 7 Years in Iran; South Korea's President to Visit Japan Next Week; Inside the Secret Talks that Ended Siege of Mariupol; Decades into Fight, Progress but Concerns about AIDS Remain. Aired 12-12:45a ET

Aired March 10, 2023 - 00:00   ET



ANNA COREN, CNN INTERNATIONAL ANCHOR: Hello, everyone. I'm Anna Coren, live from Hong Kong.


Ahead on CNN NEWSROOM, Russia's high-tech weaponry used to strike deep inside Ukraine that Kyiv admits is difficult to stop.

Criticism grows against Benjamin Netanyahu's planned judicial overhaul, from protesters to visiting U.S. officials, and even Israel's president.

And an emotional plea from behind prison walls. An American held for years inside Iran begs for his freedom in an exclusive CNN interview.

Ukraine's energy system is getting back on its feet after what's being described as an unprecedented Russian missile barrage. And Ukraine's military says the likelihood of more strikes is still high.

Officials say that power has been restored in most regions after Thursday's attacks that killed at least six people and wounded 20 others.

Ukraine says Moscow used a new tactic this time, firing different types of missiles and drones at the same time, hoping to overwhelm Ukraine's air defenses. Well, that included some missiles that Ukraine cannot shoot down, such as Russia's hypersonic Kinzhal weapon.

Well, despite all that, President Zelenskyy says his nation is still standing.


VOLODYMYR ZELENSKYY (through translator): We have already shown what Ukraine is capable of, and no matter how treacherous Russia's actions are, our state and people will not be in chains. Neither missiles nor Russia's atrocities will help them.


COREN: Well, many Ukrainian cities were in the crosshairs of the latest Russia missile salvo. Ivan Watson spoke with some residents of Kyiv, who were on the receiving end of those attacks.


IVAN WATSON, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): By land, sea, and air, Russia launched a massive missile attack on Ukraine, hurling at least 84 missiles and killer drones against its neighbor in a single night. The deadly barrage pounding Ukraine in the North, South, East, and West, decimating several houses in the Western city of Lviv, killing at least two women and three men there.

In the capital of Kyiv, one missile strike temporarily knocked out some electric power, while another slammed into the courtyard of a large apartment block.

WATSON: Fortunately, no one was killed here this morning by this missile strike, but it terrified people living next door. No one in Ukraine knows when a deadly Russian missile could explode in their neighborhood.

WATSON (voice-over): Yulia (ph) and Nastya Kulvanovska say the 7 a.m. blast broke windows in their seventh-floor apartment.

NASTYA KULVANOVSKA, KYIV RESIDENT: It was very dangerous, so we was very scared of it.

WATSON (voice-over): But the close call didn't stop them from working today.

"We've developed immunity after a year of war," says Yulia (ph). "We don't even run and hide in the basement anymore when there are air- raid sirens."

The Ukrainian military says air defenses shot down nearly half of Russia's missiles and drones but can't intercept some of these deadly weapons.

YURI IHNAT, UKRAINIAN AIR FORCE SPOKESPERSON (through translator): There were X-22, which we can't shoot down. We can't shoot down the Kinzhal either.

WATSON (voice-over): Russia's defense ministry calls the missile barrage retaliation for what it claims was a Ukrainian terrorist attack in Russia's Briansk region on March 2, claims which CNN has not been able to independently verify.

Deadly Russian revenge attacks that leave ordinary Ukrainians picking up the pieces.

Ivan Watson, CNN, Kyiv.


COREN: Cedric Leighton is a CNN military analyst and a retired U.S. Air Force colonel. He joins us now from Washington with more.

Colonel, great to have you with us. This is the largest aerial barrage launched by Russia in weeks, targeting infrastructure all over Ukraine. Did this catch Ukrainians by surprise?

COL. CEDRIC LEIGHTON (RET.), CNN MILITARY ANALYST: I don't think so, and I think it was expected the Russians would do something like this, that they would certainly try to target the infrastructure again.


And the one thing that was perhaps a bit of a surprise was the scope of the attack and the fact that it extended through the breadth and depth of the entire country, affecting cities from Lviv to Odessa to Kharkiv to Arkiv (ph) and that very fact, you know, perhaps caught him a little bit off-guard.

But also, the Ukrainians knew that most of their weapons systems weren't capable of defending against cruise missiles and, of course, you know, any other type of missiles such as the Kinzhal missile.

COREN: Let's talk about Russia's hypersonic missiles, the Kinzhal missiles. They travel at more than five times the speed of sound. They're virtually impossible for Ukraine to intercept. Will Russia continue to use them and more of them?

LEIGHTON: Well, I think it depends on how much the Russians actually have in terms of their stockpiling and hypersonic missiles.

So, it's definitely possible that the Russians will try to use more of them. The question, of course, that you have to ask is how long can they do this. And it seems to me that, at some point, they're going to run out of them.

They don't have that many, as far as we know, and they're extremely expensive to produce, and extremely expensive to maintain. So in many ways, it seems like a waste, and you're someone who's looking at this from the outside, it seems like a waste for them to use these missiles on targets like the ones in Ukraine.

COREN: I want to ask you that, because if they have such a limited supply of what is their most sophisticated weapon, why would Russia be expanding its strategic reserves right now?

LEIGHTON: Well, I think the -- it might be, Anna, that they don't have any other alternative at this point. Their ground forces aren't moving the goalposts at all, and the frontlines have not moved, you know, for any appreciable amount over the last few months.

And the other thing that you have to look at is the fact that the Russians are running low on standard munition things like 52- millimeter artillery rounds are things that they normally would be using. They're running out of those.

Plus, their tank forces have been depleted, so the only thing that they seem to have going for them is hypersonic missiles like the Kinzhal.

COREN: I'm going to ask you about the battle of Bakhmut. Russia claims to have seized the Eastern side of the city. Ukrainians are disputing that, saying that there will be no Russian victory of this city. What is the reality on the ground from what you can decipher? And tell us the strategic importance of this battle.

LEIGHTON: Yes, so the strategic importance of Bakhmut is basically in the minds of both the Ukrainians and the Russians at this point. When you look at it as a non-Ukrainian or non-Russian observer, you do not see that much in the way of strategic points here at this -- this juncture of, you know, the forces that are fighting right now, one of the key moments that is near Bakhmut, though, is the highway known as the MO-3. That highway does go from the Donbas region all the way to Kharkiv and from Kharkiv to Kyiv.

So in that sense, that highway is a bit of a strategic asset, but it is not something that would be worth fighting for at this particular juncture, because they can -- the Ukrainians can put up defensive barriers just Midwest of Bakhmut and protect their forces.

So from that standpoint, the value of Bakhmut is more symbolic than anything else. And the reason that both forces seem to be fighting in this area is precisely for that -- that symbolism.

The Russians are going to have a victory of any type at any cost. The Ukrainians want to make sure that they don't give an inch of territory. And the result has been the savage assault at Bakhmut.

COREN: Colonel Cedric Leighton, great to have you. Thank you so much for your time.

LEIGHTON: You bet, Anna. Thank you so much.

COREN: Well, protesters in Georgia are not going away quietly, even as the ruling party has withdrawn a controversial Foreign Agents Bill.

Tens of thousands of people gathered outside Parliament in Tbilisi. Some are calling for early elections, while others want government reforms that will help move Georgia toward membership in the European Union.

Georgia's president congratulated protesters on what she called an important victory.


SALOME ZOURABICHVILI, GEORGIAN PRESIDENT (through translator): I commend the authorities for taking the right decision to revoke this law. They recognize the true power of the people. The unity exhibited on Tbilisi's streets with this move.


[00:10:02] COREN: Georgia's interior ministry says it has released all the demonstrators detained this week, but it's still investigating those who attacked police and committed other violent acts.

Police in Hamburg, Germany, are investigating a deadly shooting at a Jehovah's Witness center. Police were seen entering the three-story building with guns drawn.

According to local media, six people were killed and seven others wounded. Authorities say it is not clear whether the shooter is among the dead.

Witnessed described the scene.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): We heard gunshots, and there were 12 continuous shots. We saw people being taken away in black bags.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): I also heard 12 shots at the Jehovah's Witnesses and then kept away. I saw seriously injured people. Dead people wrapped up in bags. It was very hard to see.


COREN: Well, police say an event was taking place at the Jehovah's Witness Kingdom Hall at the time of the shooting, which is believed to be an isolated incident.

There's no word yet on the motive.

Well, rising tensions between Israelis and Palestinians flared again late Thursday, this time in downtown Tel Aviv's entertainment district.

A 23-year-old Palestinian man was fatally shot by police after he opened fire on pedestrians, wounding three Israelis. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called it terrorism.

A mosque claimed responsibility and said it was in retaliation for the earlier killings by Israeli police of three Palestinians in the West Bank.

Well, against this backdrop of escalating violence is a growing wave of Israeli anger towards the government.




COREN: Ten weeks of weekly protests and counting. At issue is sweeping legislation that would, among other things, allows Supreme Court decisions to be overturned by a simple majority in Parliament. The proposal is so unpopular that even Israel's president is demanding

the government reverse course. Take a listen.


ISAAC HERZOG, ISRAELI PRESIDENT (through translator): The entirety of the legislation that's being currently discussed in the committee needs to be taken off the table, and fast. It is erroneous. It is aggressive, and it undermines our democratic foundations.

Therefore, it needs to be replaced with another, agreed upon on time. And immediately.


COREN: Thursday's protests were billed as a day of disruption, ensnarled major roads in Tel Aviv, including to the city's airport where Prime Minister Netanyahu was catching a plane to Rome.

CNN's Hadas Gold has the latest from Tel Aviv.


HADAS GOLD, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Protesters in Israel are taking their days of disruption to Israel's main airport Wednesday.

For ten weeks now, tens of thousands coming out to the streets against Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's plans to weaken the judiciary and give Israeli politicians unprecedented power to overturn Supreme Court decisions. Passengers forced to drag their suitcases, so as not to miss their flights. This man (ph) walking more than half a mile to the terminal, saying he understood the protesters' point of view.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think it's -- when you're fighting for what is right, you need to fight on the balance (ph).

GOLD (voice-over): Among the demonstrators, former fighter pilots who said they wouldn't heed the call to serve a government they believe is hurting democracy.

EYAL CARMON, FORMER ISRAELI FIGHTER PILOT: It's more important to have a free country than to catch a plane.

GOLD: The protesters here at the airport slowing down traffic to the entrance, trying to disrupt not only Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's planned trip to Italy but also affecting U.S. Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin's arrival, the Pentagon saying Israeli officials asked the defense secretary's team to push back and alter his schedule, instead of him meeting with officials in Tel Aviv.

Instead, he's arriving here to this airport and immediately going to a complex right next to the airport, meeting with officials and then flying out.

GOLD (voice-over): In an unusual move, Austin waiting to the judicial deforms debate while standing alongside the Israeli defense minister. LLOYD AUSTIN, U.S. SECRETARY OF DEFENSE: The genius of American

democracy, and Israeli democracy, is that they are both built on strong institutions, on checks and balances, and on an independent judiciary.

The president also noted that building consensus for fundamental changes is really important to ensure that the people buy into them so they can be sustained.

GOLD (voice-over): Meanwhile, in Tel Aviv, protesters blocking traffic along the main highway. Chanting "shame" and "democracy," before dozens of police, including mounted officers, pushed them off. Organizers vowing, they'll continue taking to the streets, until the planned judicial changes are stopped, just like the traffic on this highway.


Hadas Gold, CNN, Tel Aviv.


COREN: As Hadas just reported, the Israeli protests have now reached into the ranks of the military, with some pilots refusing to train.

We've now learned that the Israeli Air Force has suspended one of those pilots indefinitely. saying the colonel's actions were not appropriate.

Unlike other pilots who are siding with the protesters, the pilot who was suspended has done so publicly, with interviews on Israeli television.

Fifty-one-year-old Siamak Namazi is an Iranian U.S. national with dual citizenship arrested in 2015 while on a business trip to Iran. He is now being held in Iranian detention longer than any other American.

He spoke by phone from the notorious Evin prison, exclusively with CNN's Christiane Amanpour and made a plea to the U.S. president to ramp up efforts to secure his release. She filed this report.


CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR, CNN CHIEF INTERNATIONAL ANCHOR: I honestly would defy anybody not to be moved by this incredibly rare, unusual, and compelling conversation with an Iranian American who's been detained unjustly in Evin Prison for the past seven years.

He decided that he felt so abandoned, so out of options that he had to come through us to try to beseech directly President Biden to do whatever it takes to bring himself and two other American Iranians still in Evin prison. Here's part of that conversation.

SIAMAK NAMAZI, PRISONER IN IRAN (via phone): I think the very fact that I've chosen to take this risk, and appear on CNN from -- from Evin Prison, it just tells you how dire my situation has become by this point.

I have been a hostage for seven and half years now. That's six times the duration of the hostage crisis. I keep getting told that I'm going to be rescued, and deals fall apart or I get left abandoned.

Honestly, the other hostages and I desperately need President Biden to finally hear us out, to finally hear our cry for help and bring us home. And I suppose desperate times call for desperate measures. So, this is a desperate measure.

AMANPOUR: Siamak, you wrote this letter to President Biden recently. And I'm going to quote a little bit from it. "Day after day, I ignore the intense pain that I always carry with me and do my best to fight this grave injustice. All I want, sir, is one minute of your day's time for the next seven days devoted to thinking about the tribulations of the U.S. hostages in Iran."

Did you get any personal response to that letter, Siamak?

NAMAZI (via phone): I've never had any response. This is what makes things particularly painful. President Biden has been in office for 25 months now.

You've got to excuse me. This is hard. President Biden, I certainly hear and I sincerely appreciate your administration's repeated declarations of freeing the American hostages in Iran as its top priority. But I remain deeply worried that the White House just doesn't appreciate how dire our situation has become.

It's also very hurtful and upsetting that after 25 months in office, you haven't found the time to meet with our family, if just to give them some words of assurance. Sir, Morad, Emad and I have collectively languished here for 18 years. Our lives and families have been utterly devastated. We desperately, desperately need you to finally conclude that we've suffered long enough as Iran's hostages.

President Biden, you and you alone have the power to deliver on the Obama administration's broken promise to my family.

AMANPOUR: You can imagine, it took a huge amount of courage and desperation in equal measures to take this step. He's written to the president. He's gone on hunger strike. He's issued tweets, and op-eds, via -- via the way, whatever means he's been able to do over the last period of time. But nothing's worked.

We understand now, from experts that there potentially is some deal in the works using Qatar as an intermediary; that it would involve, like all of these issues, a financial transaction.

And so, what's being asked of the president is to be brave enough to do what other presidents have done and in other countries, to do what they have to do on humanitarian grounds to bring their citizens home.


COREN: That was Christiane Amanpour with that report. [00:20:03]

Well, CNN reached out to the Iranian and U.S. governments for comment. Tehran has not replied, but the White House gave us the following response:

"Iran's unjust imprisonment and exploitation of U.S. citizens for use as political leverage is outrageous, inhumane, and contrary to international norms. The United States will always stand up for the rights of our citizens wrongfully detained overseas, including Siamak Namazi. Senior officials from both the White House and the State Department meet and consult regularly with the Namazi family, and we will continue to do so until this unacceptable detention ends and Siamak is reunited with his family."

Still to come, China's president is securing his grip on power with an unprecedented third term.

Plus, a milestone 12 years in the making, South Korea's president is set to visit Japan, as the two countries work to ease tensions.


COREN: Well, China's National People's Congress has handed Xi Jinping an unprecedented third term as president. That makes him the longest serving head of communist China since its founding in 1949.

Xi was also named chairman of the central military commission. The unanimous votes were a formality.

China's NPC is a highly-choreographed event meant to demonstrate the legitimacy and unity of the country's political elite.

In another step to smooth relations between Seoul and Tokyo, South Korea's president, Yoon Suk Yeol, is set to meet with Prime Minister Fumio Kishida in Japan next week. This is the first such trip in 12 years.

The two countries are hoping this will lead to more cooperation in the face of rising tensions with China and North Korea.

Well, earlier this week, South Korea made another move to end a long- term dispute. The government announced a plan to pay some of its citizens, who were forced to work for Japanese companies between 1910 and 1945 during Japan's colonial rule.

For more, I'm joined by Josh Rogin. He's a columnist for "The Washington Post." Josh, great to have you with us.

Please, set the scene for us. Give us a bit of context. You know, the history of these two countries as enemies, as to why this partnership is so significant.

JOSH ROGIN, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Right, Well, South Korea and Japan have been at loggerheads since the Japanese occupation of South Korea in the early 20th Century for over 30 years, especially exacerbated by Japanese abuse of Korean workers and Korean comfort women during World War II and beyond.

You have to understand that it took a lot of political courage on the one hand for the conservative president in South Korea, Yoon, and the liberal prime minister, Kishida, in Japan, to both take these steps towards moving past those historical grievances and coming up with a creative way to forge a new era in Japan South Korea relations.

And the reason that they are taking that political risk to make these big, structural changes in their respective security postures is because they both see a rising and more aggressive and more expansionist China as a threat that they cannot deal with alone.

They are responding to China's military modernization, China's increasing internal repression, China's economic aggression and coercion, and overall Chinese bullying in the region.

This is a signal that the dynamics in the geopolitical chessboard in East Asia's changing rapidly. In the post-Russia/Ukraine war era. No longer are countries like Japan and South Korea, taking for granted that war won't come to East Asia.

In fact, they believe that the only way to prevent war is by increasing their ability to deter China from starting one.

COREN: How much of a threat or deterrence is this relationship to China?

ROGIN: Well, to be clear. I'm sorry. To be sure, the Chinese authorities were very upset by this new warming of relations between South Korea and Japan.

Chinese state propaganda tried to pin it on the United States, which is kind of an odd thing to say, considering that, actually, the U.S. government did very little to do with this diplomatic breakthrough.

There's no doubt that China's strategy in East Asia is able to divide and conquer amongst American specific allies and flies in the face of that now. The deterrents will only really be bolstered if there are resources and commitments that will follow through and after this initial diplomatic thought.

So the test will be whether or not Tokyo and Seoul can cement this new relationship with real, new cooperation. Economic cooperation. Supply lines, military intelligence cooperation.

COREN: So Josh, you don't think that this was instigated by the United States? I mean, this would serve America's interests and President Biden did praise the cooperation?

ROGIN: Right. Well, I mean, it's kind of crazy that, in Washington, it's very -- become very fashionable to blame the United States for the rise in tensions with China, when it's clear that a lot of the demand signal (ph) is calling from the region, from the allies, from the countries that are on the frontlines who are being confronted with China's expansion, first and foremost. So, it just factually is unsupportive all to say that this particular,

diplomatic thaw had anything to do with what was going on in Washington.

In fact, as it turns out, South Korea and Japan are becoming more hawkish on China because of China's actions, because of the Chinese Communist Party's behavior, and because they calculate that this is in their self-interest.

And, you know, we have this, like, sort of navel-gazing exercise in Washington where were think, well, if we're just a little bit nicer to Beijing, maybe everything will be OK. And if we're too mean to Beijing, there's going to be a cold war, or a hot war, or something like that.

But it's not really all about us. And, as it turns out, these countries in Asia have their own agency and are able to make their own decisions.

And in this case, they've made a very clear decision, which is to join together to stand up to China's aggression. And, you know, I think that Washington would be smart to -- to join them in that if we can stop blaming ourselves for the things that China has done and continues to do in the region.

COREN: Josh Rogin, as always, great to get your context. Many thanks.

ROGIN: Anytime.

COREN: Ahead, an inside look at the secret negotiations that allowed thousands of Ukrainians to leave a steel plant under heavy attack early in the war. We'll have an exclusive report.



COREN: Welcome back. You're watching CNN NEWSROOM. I'm Anna Coren, live from Hong Kong.

Well, early into Russia's invasion of Ukraine, a brutal siege unfolded in the ravaged city of Mariupol, now under Russian control. Thousands of Ukrainian soldiers and civilians sought refuge in the fortress-like iron and steel plant, which Russia bombarded for weeks.

It was feared those trapped inside would never make it out alive. But secret talks were underway that allowed a safe evacuation and surrender, which then allowed Russia to fully seize Mariupol and secure its long-sought land bridge with Crimea.

CNN's Alex Marquardt has this exclusive report.


ALEX MARQUARDT, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Three months last year, Russian forces laid siege to the Azovstal steel plant. More than 2,000 Ukrainians, both soldiers and civilians, taking shelter deep underground.

In the port city of Mariupol, it was Ukraine's last stand. After Russian President Vladimir Putin spoke on state television, ordering the plant sealed off, quote, "so that not even a fly can escape."


MARQUARDT (voice-over): These new exclusive videos show that some of his top generals were dispatched for intense, never-before-seen negotiations for the release and surrender of those in Azovstal.

These clubs and photos are from Oleksandr Kovalov, a Ukrainian member of Parliament who had previously served as a Soviet paratrooper. He told us he reached out to old contacts in Russia's security services.


GRAPHIC: There are people with some degree of sanity who wanted to help. And some wanted blood and continued shelling and bombing with hatred.

MARQUARDT (voice-over): Soon, Kovalov said, two senior Russian military intelligence generals were involved, Alexander Zorin and Vladimir Alekseev. Both are highly decorated.

General Zorin was involved in Russia's campaign in Syria, seen here with President Bashar al-Assad.

General Alekseev is the deputy head of Russia's military intelligence sanctioned by the U.S. for cyberattacks, including election interference in the E.U. and U.K. for the 2018 poisoning in England of a former Russian intelligence officer and his daughter.

This clip shows Alekseev at the steel plant, surrounded by Ukrainian troops from the Azov Battalion, which Russia calls Nazis.

Zorin photographed there, too.


GRAPHIC: These are the moments that we were worried about. A moment of trust. When we did everything so that the two sides came together, looked into each other's eyes, the Russian side promised that there would be a civilized exit for our soldiers.

MARQUARDT (voice-over): Three times he went to Mariupol that he says was under constant shelling. A senior Ukrainian military intelligence official, Dmitry Usov (ph), joined him and took charge of the talks with the Russian generals.


GRAPHIC: We tried to show the whole world that it is possible to find a compromise, if only for the sake of saving people.

MARQUARDT (voice-over): In early May, the civilians were released, soldiers still under attack.


On May 16th, a final deal was struck. Soldiers would leave; Russia would take over Mariupol.

The first Ukrainian soldiers emerged on stretchers. Many others carried or limping. They surrendered their weapons.

General Zorin, seen here, speaking with the Azov commander.


GRAPHIC: Everyone behaved professionally. There was no provocation from either side.

MARQUARDT (voice-over): Kovalov says he went with the soldiers as they were taken deeper into Russian-occupied Ukraine.


GRAPHIC: We have shown that these communication bridges work. The main thing is the desire of people to hear each other and go towards each other. Still, not everything is lost in this life, you can still be a human. Even at war.

MARQUARDT: Kovalov tells us that he continues to try to work on bringing home those remaining fighters who are at Azovstal. He says there are 2,000 who are still being held in Russia or Russian-held territories.

And for his work in Mariupol, the head of Ukrainian military intelligence wrote a commendation letter to Parliament, praising Kovalov for his important and invaluable help in ending the siege at Azovstal.

Alex Marquardt, CNN, Lviv.


COREN: It's been 20 years since a U.S. president declared a plan to fight HIV and AIDS. Just ahead, a look at the progress that's being made in countries such as South Africa, and the work that still needs to be done.


COREN: Police in central Japan have arrested three people for what they are calling sushi terrorism.

It's in response to a viral trend: people filming themselves at restaurants, grabbing food items off conveyor belts, licking them, and then putting them back.

According to Japanese broadcaster NHK, a 21-year-old and two teens were arrested for the unsavory practice. Restaurants have been forced to make changes, such as not using the

conveyor belts for unordered food, and installing security cameras to watch customers.

In the 20 years since former U.S. President George Bush announced an emergency plan to fight the HIV/AIDS epidemic, amazing progress has been made.

People who would have died are now living normal lives, but as David McKenzie reports from South Africa, the fight is not over.


DAVID MCKENZIE, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: When you started taking the medication did you start feeling better straight away or it took a long time?

PHILISANDE DAYAMANI, 14 YEARS OLD: I started feeling better straight away.

MCKENZIE (voice-over): It's an epidemic that many have forgotten.

DAYAMANI: It's not easy for me, many people cry when they hear about their status.

MCKENZIE (voice-over): Philisande's young life upended when she tested positive for HIV last year. Years ago, her mother died of suspected AIDS.

DAYAMANI: I first cried. I started by crying. Then eventually, I knew that I had to take my pills. These are the most important ones.

MCKENZIE: And they're easy to take?

DAYAMANI: So easy. Nothing hard about taking pills.

MCKENZIE (voice-over): Life-saving antiretroviral drugs that she will take for a lifetime.

DAYAMANI: I've got a purpose.

MCKENZIE: How do you feel about that?

DAYAMANI: I feel normal. It's part of life.

MCKENZIE (voice-over): Part of life for nearly 6 million South Africans on treatment. The country still has the highest HIV burden in the world. People who could otherwise die, living normal lives. It's an extraordinary public health achievement.

GEORGE W. BUSH, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Many hospitals tell people, you've got AIDS. We can't help you. Go home and die. In an age of miraculous medicines, no person should have to hear those words.

MCKENZIE (voice-over): Twenty years ago, President George W. Bush announced the presidents emergency plan for AIDS relief, of PEPFA.

The region was in crisis. In the hardest-hit areas, the virus was seen as a death sentence, because it often was. Life expectancy dropped by 20 years. Child deaths had tripled. Multiple generations were at risk.

BUSH: Seldom has history offered a greater opportunity to do so much for so many.


MCKENZIE (voice-over): Tom Bradford, CDC's director in South Africa has been HIV positive since the mid-80s on antiretroviral pills since the '90s.

BRADFORD: Despite the fact that we have a highly-effective therapy starting in 1996, they were largely available in Western Europe and the United States. And so the challenge was then getting the effective drugs, life-saving drugs to the places where they were needed most.

MCKENZIE (voice-over): And in those regions, PEPFA saved more than 25 million lives. Like 64-year-old Julius Malieppi Anasutu (ph), who's been on treatment for ten years.

"If you have faith in the pills, they will work for you," he says. "You'll start to get sick if you skip treatment." But public health officials say that the AIDS epidemic is at a crossroads.

Infection rates among men who have sex with men and young woman remains stubbornly high. So these groups have been a special focus, and globally more than 600,000 people still die of AIDS, despite wide access to prevention and treatment that can save their lives and stop the spread of HIV.

MCKENZIE: A lot of the world has sort of forgotten about HIV, but you haven't forgotten?



MOSHABESHA: No, we haven't. We haven't forgot. We still have people who are dying of HIV. It's not as big a numbers as we have seen it before.

But we still see HIV impacting lives of people in the household. We see children who are born with HIV. We still see young people still being exposed to HIV because of issues of vulnerability, so we can't -- we can't forget it.

DAYAMANI: It's a very big risk, like, for a person to take a medication if that are HIV positive, and also not to be sure that they're not HIV positive and they have to go test. It's a very risky thing.

MCKENZIE: Why is it risky?

DAYAMANI: Because a person can die without knowing what killed them.

MCKENZIE (voice-over): Philasande wants to become a doctor or a singer.

The burden she has to carry is one no child should carry. But in the next 20 years, with enough will, this virus can be beaten.

David McKenzie, CNN, Johannesburg.


COREN: A beautiful young girl who deserves a great future. I'm Anna Coren. Thank you for your company. WORLD SPORT starts after the break.