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Sunday Times-South Africa
Star joins HIV fight
<p>Andile Ndlovu</p>
July 30, 2013

"You're the future of this country and I'm asking you to seize the opportunities that you have and to do everything in your ability to live healthy and empowered lives.

"I can promise you that we will be here and we will continue to support you to keep yourselves and your peers safe from HIV."

Those were the words of Oscar-winning actress and UN Messenger of Peace Charlize Theron.

Theron, 37, who became a mother last year when she adopted her son Jackson, yesterday held a breakfast meeting with President Jacob Zuma in the Union Buildings to discuss the fight against HIV/Aids.

Michel Sidibé, the executive director of Unaids, and Health Minister Aaron Motsoaledi also attended the meeting.

At the media briefing that followed, Zuma thanked the Benoni-born beauty for putting herself "at our disposal", adding that she had "expressed very good and fresh ideas" on how to protect children, especially young South African girls, from the virus.

Theron and Zuma met earlier this year in Switzerland, at the World Economic Forum, where Theron received the WEF Crystal award for her humanitarian work. It was there, Zuma said, that the Hollywood star told him about the work the Charlize Theron Africa Outreach Project was doing to combat TB and malaria.

Theron was circumspect while reading her prepared speech.

"Every young person in this country should be able to get information and access to keep themselves healthy," she read.

"Young people have to feel unjudged [sic] when accessing health services and these services need to be readily available at all times to youths."

She said the stigma that still surrounded HIV/Aids could only be broken "through the process of conversation".

Zuma said the necessary conversations - including access to antiretroviral treatment and prevention - were already occurring.

He said: "I come from Nkandla, a deep rural area. This matter is no longer taboo.

"People come to tell me, 'I've run out of treatment, could you buy?'. People talk about this.

"I think it's not as it was. It's talked about and people are no longer shy. As much as it's not 100% gone, I do agree that the stigma is going away, and at least people are talking about it."