On July 29, Academy Award-winning actress Charlize Theron urged the youth of South Africa to educate themselves about HIV/AIDS in order to stay healthy. The speech took place after her meeting with President Jacob Zuma, where they discussed South Africa’s response to HIV/AIDS and her role as a UNAIDS messenger of peace. UNAIDS is the joint United Nations program on HIV/AIDS.
The South African-born actress told reporters at the Union Building in Pretoria, “We are all here to support you. You are the future of this country and I am asking you to seize the opportunity to lead healthy and empowered lives.”
“It’s always very special for me to be able to come home and even more when I have a chance to lend my support to the youth of this country,” said Theron, speaking to the youth wearing a red AIDS ribbon.
Known for her glamorous red carpet photos, perfume advertisements, and movie roles, Theron said South Africa has come a long way in its response to the HIV epidemic, but too many girls and young women are still falling through the cracks and should not be forgotten. The social stigma associated with the virus in some areas of South Africa still needs to be addressed. Women should be empowered enough to protect themselves whether or not they chose to be sexually active, Theron said.
Theron went on to say she regarded a safe school environment, with teachers and counselors who were equipped to help, as key effort in the response to HIV/AIDS. In 2009 Theron was named the UN Messenger of Peace, tasked with promoting efforts to end violence against women. The Africa Outreach Project is one of her projects which, according to the UN, provides funding for a mobile health and computer clinic that visits high school and rural communities affected by HIV/AIDS.
Zuma proudly welcomed Theron back home. “We had a very good discussion, which we believe is going to give us a big push,” he stated to reporters. He applauded South Africa’s success in increasing life expectancy, praising Health Minister Aaron Motsoaledi. He said in his hometown of Nkandla, people could now talk about HIV/AIDS without fear.
After the briefing, photographers swarmed for one last photo of the glamorous movie star.
– Scarlet Shelton
Sources: All Africa