When Charlize Theron came to Capitol Hill recently, she undoubtedly turned a few heads. But the Academy Award-winning actress didn’t come to be seen; she came to be heard.
Ten years after President Bush began an emergency AIDS relief program, known as PEPFAR, Theron is calling on the United States to renew its commitment in the global fight against HIV/AIDS.
“We're looking at our first AIDS-free generation being born in 2015,” Theron tells Top Line. “We can't stop now.”
Theron runs an AIDS support program for youth from her home country of South Africa, Africa Outreach Project, where 10 percent of the population has the disease, and met with members of Congress to talk about her work. Her advocacy for continued monetary assistance comes at a time when lawmakers have little appetite for increased spending, but the South African actress says the U.S.’s contributions to foreign aid efforts are more modest than some think.
“A lot of Americans have this misperception that foreign aid is around 25 percent, which it's not. It's less than 1 percent,” says Theron.
Executive Director of UNAIDS Michel Sidibé accompanied Theron during her Capitol Hill visit and says the United States has been a crucial partner in making progress against AIDS.
“The taxpayer's money is producing results, starting with the commitment of President Bush, bringing the emergency plan, showing that we can really save lives of people when no one was having any hope,” Sidibé says. "It was $15,000 per person per year. Today we have 8 million people on treatment. We save millions of lives.”
For more of the interview with Theron and Sidibé, and to hear about Theron’s offer to serve as President Obama’s tour guide of South Africa, check out this episode of Power Players.
ABC's Eric Wray, Alexandra Dukakis, Betsy Klein, Paul Dougherty, and John Glennon contributed to this episode.