In the relatively short time AIDS has been known to the world, it has divided communities. It has killed because of stigma and ignorance. It has left millions of orphans. And it has caused untold suffering in sickness and death. My home country of South Africa has felt the impact of this pandemic in a way that is simply unacceptable. It's nearly impossible to be South African and not have been affected by HIV/AIDS in some way.
The scars that have been left by this disease are felt globally and will never go away, but we can beat it.
I founded my Africa Outreach Project, CTAOP, because I believe that working to help keep youth safe from HIV is pivotal to turning the tide. We work with community-engaged organizations in Africa that address the key drivers of the disease. It's exciting to see the momentum building in the youth to take responsibility and ownership over their own health.
Seeing this progress on the ground, and knowing the advances made on a global scale are encouraging, but we need to continue the fight. This is why I'm in Davos this week at the World Economic Forum annual meeting as an advocate for the millions of Africans whose lives depend on programs funded by the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria. While I'm there, I'd like to take the opportunity to tell the participating politicians and CEOs a few things:
- We are making progress. As a South African I can tell you that there are fewer funerals, fewer youth in orphanages, and more empty hospital beds than ten years ago. We've gone from less than 300,000 people receiving AIDS treatment in the developing world in 2002, to 8.6 million today.
- We're not finished yet. As long as there is even one young person out there without access to comprehensive health information and health care, we will not defeat AIDS.
- Come and see the amazing results we are seeing and need to sustain. I've been blessed in my role as a UN Messenger of Peace to have travelled and met the people on the frontlines of the fight against AIDS around the world. It is their strength and resilience that motivates me to keep going.
- We need a Big Push. History will judge us by how we choose to confront this watershed moment. It will be up to donors to commit the political will and financial resources needed, even in these times of economic austerity. And it is up to us to push for these commitments.
We all get to decide what we want to do to make something better in our world. Supporting the Big Push to defeat AIDS so all young people are empowered to lead healthy HIV-free lives is what I've decided to do.