Charlize Theron’s Powerful Speech Reveals Why We Haven’t Stopped AIDS

In a powerful speech given at the 21st International AIDS Conference in Durban, South Africa, United Nations Messenger of Peace Charlize Theron admits that she’s not happy to be there. It’s not that that she isn’t proud of the Conference's mission or its important work, but that it’s a shame it’s still necessary. “Why haven’t we beaten this epidemic?” she asks after revealing that 2.1 million people were diagnosed with HIV just last year. Some say it’s too expensive, too stigmatized, too politicized, but the real reason is something nobody has been brave enough to admit: “We value some lives more than others.” “We value men more than women,” she continues. “Straight love more than gay love, white skin more than black skin, the rich more than the poor, and adults more than adolescents.” She points out that AIDS doesn’t single these people out, we do. It’s our prejudices that stop these victims from getting the care they need. “If we’re going to end AIDS, we have to cure the disease within our own hearts and within our own minds first,” she says to loud applause. While the current generation may be set in its ways, Theron calls upon the next one to find the solution. She points out that young people have always “been the drivers of social change,” but only if the world allows them a space at the table and listens to their voices. Theron reminds the crowd of their goal to end AIDS by 2030, and with any luck, the next four International AIDS Conferences will be the last.

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