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Lennox hits out at HIV 'pandemic'

August 19, 2009
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 Edinburgh.

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 enough".

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 HIV."

Expanded festival

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.