U.N. Special Envoy for HIV/AIDS in Africa Says Celebrity Important Component of Fighting African AIDS Epidemic
U.N. Special Envoy for HIV/AIDS in Africa Stephen Lewis on Sunday said that celebrity attention could be an integral part of combating the African AIDS epidemic, the Canadian Press reports. Lewis -- who was in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, for a weekend symposium -- said during an interview that "celebrity attention," including Oprah Winfrey's recent trip to Zambia, could help "kickstart the search for a cure" to HIV/AIDS, according to the Canadian Press (Canadian Press, 1/26). Winfrey in December 2003 traveled to Zambia to learn more about AIDS orphans. Winfrey was encouraged to take her two-day trip to Zambia after discussions with Lewis and former South African President Nelson Mandela. In Zambia, approximately one in five people is HIV-positive and one in three children is an orphan (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 12/17/03). While in the country, Winfrey visited clinics in the capital city Lusaka that provide care to HIV-positive pregnant women, including the provision of antiretroviral drugs to prevent mother-to-child HIV transmission (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 12/5/03). Lewis said, "To go to a country as poor as Zambia, struggling as hard as Zambia, was ... quite a jolt and reinforced [Winfrey's] determination to do something." In addition to Winfrey, Irish rock star Bono, Microsoft CEO Bill Gates and former President Bill Clinton have made "major" contributions to the fight against HIV/AIDS, the Canadian Press reports. Lewis said that although more high-profile figures are using their positions to raise HIV/AIDS awareness, "[i]t should be major politicians in major countries who are the voice, supporting what Africa wants to do" (Canadian Press, 1/26).This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.