Charlize Theron visits Whizzkids United in Edendale, Pietermaritzburg
Charlize Theron in South Africa to highlight adolescents’ fight against HIV/AIDS – the leading cause of death among adolescents in Africa
Sunday, 17 July, 2016 – The South African born, Academy Award winning actor and UN Messenger of Peace, Charlize Theron, is in South Africa to attend the AIDS 2016 Conference in Durban. She is focused on highlighting the complex challenges contributing to the alarming HIV infection rates and AIDS-related deaths among adolescents, as well as the work being done through the support of the Charlize Theron Outreach Project (CTAOP) to address HIV prevention among youth.
According to UNICEF, AIDS is the number one cause of death in Africa and the number two cause globally amongst 10 to 19 year olds. The AIDS-related deaths among this age group in particular, have increased threefold since the year 2000. Largely attributed to a generation of children infected with HIV perinatally, this vulnerable group is growing into adolescents without access to life-saving interventions1. The spread of infection is compounded by complex challenges adolescents face, including gender inequality, high crime rates, lack of cohesive family units, high incidence of rape and sexual abuse, misinformation or lack of information about HIV, chronic unemployment, lack of access to health services, and the stigma that surrounds the disease.
CTAOP invests in African youth to keep themselves safe from HIV/AIDS by supporting community-based organizations that implement innovative HIV prevention programs specifically targeting adolescents. This community-based approach rooted in collaborative relationships enables both CTAOP and its grantee partners to evolve together, increasing each community’s capacity to prevent HIV in the long term. Furthermore, these community programs inform CTAOP’s advocacy efforts at policy level with groups like UNAIDS, the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria and the South African government, helping to ensure that policy remains connected to real world circumstances.
The project supports seven organisations working in South Africa: HIVSA, Life Choices, Drama for Life, Small Projects Foundation, Department of Social Responsibility, dlalanathi, and WhizzKids United (WKU). These organisations aim to educate, empower, and invest in young people and in so doing, prevent the spread of HIV/AIDS – particularly among adolescents.
Since launching in 2007, through its work with these grantees, CTAOP supported programs and tools have reached over 1.2 million young people across South Africa. South Africa, as Charlize’s home country and the country with the highest number of people living with HIV in the world, remains the project’s primary area of focus.
CTAOP provides grantee organizations with direct support and grants for programs and capacity building. The impact of this support can be seen in the success of work done by the likes of WhizzKids United (WKU), which has served up to 6,000 adolescents annually for the past five years, providing more than 15,000 services to local youth through adolescent-friendly clinical services, outreach programs, and leadership development.
“Our vision is that every young person in the programme has the opportunity to realize their potential,” says WKU founder, CEO and HIV specialist nurse Marcus McGilvray.
WKU operates in partnership with the KwaZulu-Natal Department of Health, which provides support for the daily operations of WKU’s Health Academy. In addition to its award-winning ‘On the Ball’ program, the organisation has also developed a unique program called ‘Game Changers’, a personal and professional development program targeting unemployed, disadvantaged youth ages 17-23.
Following a press visit to WhizzKids United’s base at Edendale Hospital in Pietermaritzburg this past weekend, Charlize Theron said “It’s always encouraging to visit the grantees and to witness first-hand what organizations like WhizzKids United are doing. They are implementing highly successful intervention programmes in order to tackle some difficult societal and structural challenges that youth face as a result of the HIV/AIDS epidemic. These programmes provide opportunities for young people to learn, to openly discuss the disease, to break through barriers like stigma and discrimination, and to empower themselves to stay safe from the virus and encourage their communities to do the same.”
“At the very heart of the organizations we partner with are some incredibly dedicated people who are doing what they can to change one life at a time. And it’s working. Communities are benefiting from sustained efforts to ensure that this generation of young people is empowering themselves despite the many social, structural, and psychological challenges they face. We are so proud and humbled by the amazing work WKU and all our grantees continue to do.”
For more information about the Charlize Theron Africa Outreach Project, visit www.charlizeafricaoutreach.org.
Follow the CTAOP journey on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and YouTube.
Learn more about WhizzKids United.
From the Meander Chronicle editor… ” an enlightening and thoroughly gratifying day spent with Game Changers, Whizzkids, Charlize Theron, Dr Nonhlanhla Madlala, Marcus McGilivray, Stefan Kunze, in the company of international journalists. As MEC for Health Dr Sibongiseni Dhlomo reiterated, it’s small actions that can lead to big change. This project illustrates just that. With another 11 Whizzkids United Health Academies in the pipeline, at various regional hospitals, the hope which Whizzkids United offers this generation of young people promises to grow substantially.”
References 1. UNICEF – http://childrenandaids.org/situation