The HIV virus can be spread in plenty more ways than just sex, actress Charlize Theron asserted while delivering the opening remarks at the 21st International AIDS Conference in Durban, South Africa on Monday.
“The real reason we haven’t beaten this epidemic boils down to one simple fact: we value some lives more than others,” the 40-year-old Mad Max: Fury Road star told attendees at the conference.
“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 continued. “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 youths or the poor. It doesn’t single out the vulnerable, the oppressed or the abused. We single out the vulnerable, the oppressed and the abused.”
The actress implored her colleagues and the world’s youth to be the generation that finally ends “it.”
“‘It’ is not just AIDS,” she said. “It is the culture that condones rape and shames victims into silence. ‘It’ is the cycle of poverty and violence that traps girls into teen marriages and forces them to sell their bodies to provide for their families. ‘It’ is the racism that allows the white and the wealthy to exploit the black and the poor and then blame them for their own suffering. ‘It’ is the homophobia that shames and isolates LGBT youth and keeps them from life-saving healthcare and education.”
“HIV is not just transmitted by sex,” Theron added. “It’s transmitted by sexism, racism, poverty and homophobia. And if we’re going to end AIDS, we have to cure the disease within our own hearts and within our own minds first.”
The annual AIDS conference in Durban this year comes as fears grow over the number of new cases of the virus reported each year. According to the Guardian, just under 2 million new cases of the disease are reported annually.
Other celebrities and dignitaries expected to attend this year’s conference include Sir Elton John, Queen Latifah, Prince Harry and UN Secretary-General Ban Ki Moon.
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