The Actor, who grew up amid the Aids crisis in South Africa, says the virus has a stigma that people have been afraid to talk about.
It’s not for a lack of medication or treatments that the world hasn’t put an end to AIDS. It’s because a number of minority groups aren’t getting the available care and prevention programs, actress Charlize Theron said at the International AIDS Conference in Durban.
“The real reason we haven’t beaten this epidemic boils down to one simple fact: We value some lives more than others,” Theron said at the conference, according to Mic.
“We value men more than women. Straight love more than gay love. White skin more than black skin. The rich more than the poor. And adults more than adolescents.”
Theron, one of the speakers at the official opening of the International Aids Conference in Durban on Monday night, is South African by birth and started a foundation in 2007 to help prevent adolescents and young people becoming infected with HIV in ever greater numbers.
Theron went on to identify the specific groups who are disproportionately affected by the disease.
“I know this because AIDS does not discriminate on its own,” Theron said. “It has no biological preference for black bodies, for women’s bodies, for gay bodies, for youth or the poor. It doesn’t single out the vulnerable, the oppressed or the abused.”
“We single out the vulnerable, the oppressed or the abused.”
“We ignore them,” she added. “We let them suffer, and then we let them die.”
Now that’s powerful.
Theron also emphasized that while she’s honoured to be asked to speak about such an important cause, she’s sad that the International AIDS Conference is even necessary at this point. Four more International AIDS conferences are planned between now and 2030 (the goal year for finally ending AIDS), she said, and these must truly be the last.
The actress explained that though the work of medical researchers, program implementors and donors is vital, the key to ending AIDS is mobilizing and empowering the next generation to push for social change.
“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 [to] and empower them…they will end this epidemic.”
Watch Theron’s moving speech in its entirety below: