Charlize Theron was in Durban, South Africa for the 21st international AIDS conference and she told her country-men hosting the event was not something to be proud of.
Theron who gave a speech on the ongoing epidemic said what she wanted was change, and for that to happen, things had to be done differently, the truths had to be told, no sugarcoating anything.
“This is the second time my home country of South Africa has hosted. That’s not an honor. That’s not something we should be proud of.”
“We shouldn’t have had to host this conference again. Please understand, I don’t mean to insult anyone here or to belittle the extraordinary work that has been done by this amazing community over the years,” Charlize Theron added.
“I have seen the impact of your work firsthand. I have been personally inspired by your commitment to this fight. Countless millions would have died without your dedication and your compassion. But I think it’s time we acknowledge that something is terribly wrong.”
Theron continued, “The real reason we haven’t beaten the epidemic boils down to one simple fact: We value some lives more than others. We value men more than women. Straight love more than gay love. White skin more than black skin. The rich more than the poor. Adults more than adolescents.”
“I know this because AIDS does not discriminate on its own. It has no biological preference for black bodies, for women’s bodies, for gay bodies, for youth or for the poor. It doesn’t single out the vulnerable, the oppressed, or the abused.”
“We single out the vulnerable, the oppressed, and the abused. We ignore them. We let them suffer. And then, we leave them to die.”
Charlize Theron also introduced her foundation, Charlize Theron Africa Outreach Project, also called “GenEndIt,” saying her organization is calling on the younger generation to help shift the social injustice that is crippling the world we live in.
She said her call to action wasn’t for AIDS alone, but also victim-shaming, homophobia, racism and the cycle of poverty.
“If we are going to end AIDS, we must cure the disease in our hearts and minds first. And I believe young people are the ones to do it. Young people have always been drivers of social change. And this generation holds unique promise. This is the generation that is shattering taboos and redefining old notions of gender, sexuality, and racial justice,” she said.
“I believe the single most important thing each of us can do after we leave here is to connect with a young person. Listen, truly listen, to what she has to say. Give her a seat at the table. Let her be part of the conversation. And let’s make sure our work reflects her input and her voice.”
“If we support our young people, if we give them the confidence and the space to speak out against bigotry and injustice, and if we take the time to listen and empower them, they will end this epidemic.”