“YOU’RE the future of this country and I’m asking you to seize the opportunities that you have and to do everything in your ability to live healthy and empowered lives.
“I can promise you we will be here and we will continue to support you to keep yourselves and your peers safe from HIV.”
This was the message yesterday from Oscar-winning South African- born actress Charlize Theron, 37, to the country’s youth.
She was speaking after a breakfast meeting in Pretoria with President Jacob Zuma to discuss the fight against HIV infections.
Dressed to kill in a black trench coat, black pants and a black printed top, shades, and her now popular pixie haircut, the UN Messenger of Peace rushed into the Union Buildings for her meeting with Zuma. Michel Sidibé, the executive director of UNAids and Health Minister Aaron Motsoaledi were also part of the meeting.
The quartet stepped out briefly to face the media scramble, where Zuma thanked the Benoni-born beauty for putting herself “at our disposal”, adding that she had “expressed very good and fresh ideas” on how to protect children, but especially young South African girls, from the virus.
Theron and Zuma met earlier this year in Switzerland, at the World Economic Forum, where the former received the WEF Crystal award for her humanitarian work. Zuma said then that Theron had briefed him on work she was doing with her Charlize Theron Africa Outreach Project, and also her fight against TB and malaria.
Theron said “every young person in this country should be able to get information and access ways to keep themselves healthy. “Young people have to feel unjudged when accessing health services and these services need to be readily available at all times to youths.”
The stigma and taboo around the virus and on Aids could only be broken “through the process of conversation”, she said.
Zuma said the conversations (about subjects ranging from access to anti-retroviral treatment to prevention) were already occurring.
He said: “I come from Nkandla – a deep rural area. This matter is no longer taboo. People come to tell me; ‘I’ve run out of treatment, could you buy’. As much as it is not 100% gone, I do agree the stigma is going away, and at least people are talking about it.”