Richard Gere felt compelled to lead an AIDS campaign after losing several close friends to the killer disease.

The Shall We Dance actor, 55, has told the United Nations in New York his work to combat the illness in India - as part of the Heroes Project - is born out personal experience of seeing loved ones die.

Gere explains, "AIDS is something that is not conceptual to me, it's deep in my heart, it's killed a lot of my friends, it's killed a very close friend of mine two years ago.

"It something that has touched my brother who is gay and he has lost a lot of very close friends.

"I've seen it close up and I've seen people deteriorate in six months."

24/11/2004 17:29