Actress Charlize Theron dreams of AIDS-free South Africa

Charlize Theron arrives for the ‘Atomic Blonde’ US Premiere on July 24, 2017 in Los Angeles. (Shutterstock)
Updated 19 August 2017

Actress Charlize Theron dreams of AIDS-free South Africa

JOHANNESBURG: Oscar-winning Hollywood actress Charlize Theron hopes to create an AIDS-free generation in her home country South Africa, which has one of the highest rates of HIV infection in the world.
The star who is the founder of Charlize Theron Africa Outreach Project which supports community-based HIV programs said the country’s “ridiculously large” HIV burden was hard to ignore and that prompted her awareness from an early age.
Her project has partnered with other leading organizations fighting the pandemic in the country of her birth.
“We have to be able to put our foot down and say enough is enough, let us end this,” she told AFP during her visit to the country.
“We just need the resources,” she added.
Through her support of Choma Dreams Cafe, a place that aims to empower adolescent girls by providing them access to education, life skills and mentorship, Theron believes that HIV infections can be halted.
“My personal opinion is that we are never gonna stop AIDS by just simply treating it ... it is never going to happen,” she said.
“You cannot wait for people to become infected and think you are going to stop AIDS. You have to invest in young people before they become HIV-positive,” she said.
Around 7 million South Africans, or 19.2 percent of the population, are living with the virus and adolescent girls are at most risk of infection, according to the UN AIDS agency.
According to government, 3.4 million are receiving treatment, in what is said to be the largest roll-out of life-saving drugs.
Theron said she was “incredibly proud” of South Africa’s treatment efforts, although many people who should be on treatment are still not getting it.
The 42-year-old movie star who left South Africa as a teenager stressed that gender inequality and poverty played a major role in the spread of HIV, and that the virus must not be seen as a sexual health problem.
Theron stirred controversy during her speech at the 2016 international AIDS conference in Durban, when she said the virus which is ravaging Africa was fueled by “sexism, poverty and homophobia.”
“I stand by what I said last year,” she said emphatically, stressing the importance of holistic approach in the fight against HIV.
“When you look at HIV and AIDS, you have to looks at the factors that are driving it ... you have to see why are these people getting infected.”
The Atomic Blonde star mingled with teenage girls at the Choma Dreams Cafe in Soweto — an Internet-connected resource facility nestled among shacks in the teeming neighborhood blighted by high unemployment and poverty.
The center caters to vulnerable girls aged between six and 18 years, providing them with HIV prevention tips in fun girl-friendly ways.
Some of them are AIDS orphans and exposed to crime and sexual violence which heighten their vulnerability to the disease.
“I think if we can grab them before they become HIV positive, you can actually tell them this is just 100 preventable and you don’t have to become HIV positive,” she said.
“I think we would see a decrease in the number of infections.”
The Soweto center is one of the 40 hubs spread across South Africa’s two most populous provinces of Gauteng and KwaZulu-Natal.

What’s Trending Today’s: hot topics explained

Zuhoor Assiri gestures as she drives her car in Dhahran on Sunday. (Reuters)
Updated 25 June 2018

What’s Trending Today’s: hot topics explained

In the driver’s seat

Prince Al-Waleed bin Talal. (Twitter photo)

“Al-Waleed bin Talal” was one of the top trending Google searches on Sunday, as he participated in the historic event of women driving in the Kingdom.  

He shot a video of himself sitting next to his daughter Reem who drove him around Riyadh with his granddaughters sitting in the backseat.

In the viral video, Prince Al-Waleed bin Talal said: “Saudi Arabia has entered the 21st century.” 

Prince Al-Waleed is a Saudi businessman, investor, philanthropist, and a member of the Saudi royal family. Prince Al-Waleed is also the chairman of Board of Directors of Kingdom Holding Company (KHC), a Saudi conglomerate company, publicly listed on the Tadawul (Saudi Stock Exchange). 



The Arabic hashtag for Saudi women driving cars, and the English #SaudiWomenDriving were the top trending hashtags in the region. On June 24, history was made in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, as women with valid driving licenses grabbed their car keys and enjoyed a drive on Kingdom’s roads marking the beginning of an era of prosperity. 

@geekyerxm said: “Seeing all the Saudi woman driving with the biggest smiles ever, is making me tear up GO GIRLSSS”

@ArshiyaShariff7 said: “So finally the wait is over”

@Aljehani_Maha said: “Today we are making history congratulations to all the women in our beloved country, I’m so happy and proud of each one of us. Let’s drive and be the change that we want to see in the world. #SaudiWomenDrive”

@ZainabDaham said: “24th of June 2018,the end of an era and the start of a new one for our Saudi sisters. A very memorable day and a true historic moment. #SaudiWomenDrive”

@LamaG6 said: “Congratulations to all the women in Saudi Arabia! Today marks an extraordinary leap of faith. Today we ARE the news. #SaudiWomenDrive”