by Zach Johnson | Mon., Sep. 28, 2015 8:50 AM
Charlize Theron is a mom on a mission.
The star appeared on Today Monday to discuss the Charlize Theron Africa Outreach Project, which she founded in 2007. "A lot of people assume that we've come a long way with HIV/AIDs—and we have, especially over the last decade. But HIV/AIDS is still the No. 1 killer of women of a reproductive age worldwide. It's something that we still really need to care about because it's really disproportionately hitting young girls and young women," the actress and activist told Savannah Guthrie and Matt Lauer. "We've seen a stability or a decrease in a lot of the infection rates across the board, but we are seeing an increase when it comes to youth and adolescents. Somehow we're not reaching those very, very vulnerable girls. That's what our project tries to do with our grassroots organizations on the ground."
Charlize, who hails from South Africa and lives in the United States, said the organization is working with people "who know the issues that these girls are facing with gender equality, education, or not getting the same level of education because they're basically being treated second- and third-class citizens."
Before going to break, Tamron Hall mentioned that Charlize recently adopted her second child, a daughter named August Theron. "I have a little girl, yes," said the single mom, who also adopted a son, Jackson Theron, in March 2012.
Charlize returned later in the show to further discuss her organization's goals with Tamron, Al Roker and Willie Geist. "When I was growing up in the late '80s and early '90s, the epidemic brutally hit and we had very little information on it," she said. "I remember being a young girl, growing up with this petrifying fear because people were dying and nobody knew why. Today we know why and it's completely preventable. And yet more young girls are dying today than 20 years ago, and something's wrong with that."
Unlike some HIV/AIDS organizations, the Charlize Theron Africa Outreach Project focuses on prevention. "There was so much immediate care everywhere in South Africa, and I think all over the world, but we're not going to stop AIDS until we actually teach people how not to become positive. What we've been doing is just curbing it. This is an infectious disease. You can't curb that. So we had to stop it. We have to eliminate it completely," the Mad Max: Fury Road actress said. "And the problem is, the Western World, we've come so far. We don't really see AIDS on the front page of the newspaper anymore. The problem is we become complacent and the problem is right now more young girls are dying because of that complacency."
People can visit her organization's Facebook, Instagram and Twitter pages to learn more. Charlize added that it's "very important" to continue the conversation. "Sit at dinner tonight and tell whomever you're eating with that girls are eight times more likely to become HIV positive than boys in South Africa."
Before the segment concluded, Tamron said, "You have a 3-month-old who's probably saying, 'Where is my mom?'" Using a baby's voice, the Academy Award-winning actress mimicked her daughter, asking, "Where's my bottle?"
(E! and NBC are both members of the NBCUniversal family.)
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