Governments have not responded effectively to the "huge pandemic"
of HIV/Aids, according to pop star Annie Lennox.
The former Eurythmics singer was one of the leading attractions
at this year's Festival of Politics at the Scottish Parliament in
Ms Lennox said HIV was having a "devastating" impact on Africa.
In countries such as South Africa it is estimated that more than
10% of the population is living with HIV.
Reports also suggest that one in three pregnant women there are
carrying the virus.
The singer, whose hits include 1984 and Sweet Dreams, has become
a leading activist in this field through the work of her Sing
project and with Nelson Mandela's 46664 Foundation.
Ms Lennox described HIV/Aids as a "huge pandemic that to be fair,
to be honest, governments have not responded to effectively
But she also hit out at the Catholic Church, telling the
audience: "Churches can do a tremendous amount, and I know they
do, but then again they can do tremendous harm, because when the
Pope goes to a country in Africa and tells them that they
shouldn't be using condoms when we know that HIV is a sexually
transmitted disease, I don't think that makes any sense at all."
During her hour-long talk, Ms Lennox told how former South
African president Nelson Mandela had inspired her to join the
campaign against the disease.
The singer added: "I'm comfortably wealthy, white, educated - I'm
one of the lucky ones. I have had good healthcare and my children
have good healthcare. I want that for everybody, I want people to
have fundamental access to the most basic things."
She urged the public to get involved and said: "Everybody can do
something, I really believe that, that each of us have a sphere
of influence, whether it be your friends, your family or
workplace, or colleagues."
And she also told Holyrood Presiding Officer Alex Ferguson she
wanted to take on a special role in Scotland, saying: "I would
really like it if the Scottish Parliament could use me in some
way to be the Scottish representative for women and children and
Ms Lennox had been due to speak at last year's Festival of
Politics, but was forced to pull out due to health problems.
She said then she was "hugely disappointed" and had pledged:
"Once I am back on my feet, it will be my imperative to come back
up to Edinburgh at the earliest opportunity."
This is the fifth year that Holyrood has staged the Festival of
Politics - with the event expanded this year to five days.
Other attractions include talks from former Foreign Secretary
David Owen, who left Labour and set up the SDP with fellow
members of the "gang of four", and from the former International
Development Secretary Clare Short.
With the Scottish Parliament celebrating its 10th anniversary
this year, former Presiding Officers Sir David Steel and George
Reid were also joining current Presiding Officer Alex Fergusson
to discuss the challenges and achievements over the last decade.