Oscar-winning actor and AIDS campaigner Charlize Theron says racism is one of the underlying causes of HIV and a reason why the epidemic has not yet been brought to an end. South African by birth,she started a foundation in 2007 to help prevent adolescents and young people becoming infected with HIV in ever greater numbers.
The 40-year-old actor, in an interview to The Guardian, said increased funding was very important in the effort to end AIDS. “But at the same time I also think that there are very fundamental issues like stigma, and there’s a racial part of it too that I think we haven’t really talked about or people are too scared to talk about,” she said.
“HIV the virus doesn’t know the difference between black skin and white skin and when we look at how it’s so disproportionately affected people, we have to look at the racial issue. We have to look at the fact that women are just thought of as less than men globally. There are things that we have been too scared to openly talk about and I’m hoping to start that conversation,” she added.
Therons early and teenage years were lived in the shadow of a growing HIV epidemic in South Africa.
“I have very vivid memories [of] being very young and being affected by what was happening. I don’t think anyone at that time knew what it was and I think that was what was so incredibly scary.
“But it left quite an impression on me that stayed with me for the rest of my life,” she said. As she grew older, she learned how disproportionately Africa had been affected, she said.
“As a South African that’s very hard to un-know. Once you know that, you want to be a part of the solution somehow. I feel like from the very time I could remember, AIDS and HIV have had an impact on me.
The Charlize Theron Africa Outreach Project aims to help children and young people safeguard themselves against HIV. Theron calls it “investment in African youth... So that they can ultimately make good decisions for themselves and stay HIV free.”