by Bruna Nessif | Mon., Jul. 18, 2016 6:19 PM
Charlize Theron wants to see change, and in order to do that, she knows we have to do something different.
The actress took the podium in Durban, South Africa at the 21st international AIDS conference to speak out about the ongoing epidemic, and to address the problems our world continuously faces today without sugarcoating a thing.
"This is the second time my home country of South Africa has hosted. That's not an honor. That's not something we should be proud of," Theron stated. "We shouldn't have had to host this conference again. Please understand, I don't mean to insult anyone here or to belittle the extraordinary work that has been done by this amazing community over the years.
"I have seen the impact of your work firsthand. I have been personally inspired by your commitment to this fight. Countless millions would have died without your dedication and your compassion. But I think it's time we acknowledge that something is terribly wrong."
This is when Theron goes into the statistics that just don't seem to add up. The star explains that "we have every tool we need to prevent the spread of HIV," and yet millions continue to be diagnosed each year. And that's when the famous activist got to the nitty-gritty of the problem.
"The real reason we haven't beaten the epidemic boils down to one simple fact: We value some lives more than others. We value men more than women. Straight love more than gay love. White skin more than black skin. The rich more than the poor. Adults more than adolescents," she said.
"I know this because AIDS does not discriminate on its own. It has no biological preference for black bodies, for women's bodies, for gay bodies, for youth or for the poor. It doesn't single out the vulnerable, the oppressed, or the abused."
Theron continued, "We single out the vulnerable, the oppressed, and the abused. We ignore them. We let them suffer. And then, we leave them to die."
That's when the star introduced the conference to what her foundation, Charlize Theron Africa Outreach Project, has called "GenEndIt," which calls on the younger generation to help shift the social injustice that is crippling the world we live in.
This call to action is not limited to just AIDS, but also victim-shaming, homophobia, racism and the cycle of poverty.
"If we are going to end AIDS, we must cure the disease in our hearts and minds first. And I believe young people are the ones to do it. Young people have always been drivers of social change. And this generation holds unique promise. This is the generation that is shattering taboos and redefining old notions of gender, sexuality, and racial justice," she said.
"I believe the single most important thing each of us can do after we leave here is to connect with a young person. Listen, truly listen, to what she has to say. Give her a seat at the table. Let her be part of the conversation. And let's make sure our work reflects her input and her voice...If we support our young people, if we give them the confidence and the space to speak out against bigotry and injustice, and if we take the time to listen and empower them, they will end this epidemic."
Theron concluded with the reveal of a goal set by the foundation. "Since the first International AIDS Conference in 1985, we have been counting up, all the way to 21. Now it's time for us to start counting down.
"We have set a goal to end the AIDS epidemic by 2030."
Watch Charlize Theron's entire speech in the video above.
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