Annie Lennox will appear at two events at the Scottish Festival of Politics this month – Annie Lennox and The SING Campaign – One Year On (Thursday 19 August), and Power of the People (Wednesday 18 August), where she will form part of a panel.

Lennox will provide an update on developments of The SING Campaign one year on. Those in attendance will find out about the positive impact SING and the Treatment Action Campaign continue to have on people living with HIV/AIDS. Annie will also act as a panel member, alongside Martin Bell and Mark Thomas during Power of the People, a session examining how people who are not professional politicians can have a significant impact upon the political landscape, and how this affects parliaments and government.

She recently gave the organizers of the Festival of Politics (FoP) a special interview about what she will talk about during the event:

FoP: You’ve recently visited South Africa again to see how the work of SING and the Treatment Action Campaign (TAC) is progressing. There seems to be some very positive results, as can be seen from the video you posted on the SING website showing the considerable improvement in the lives of the four brothers who were orphaned as a result of AIDS.

AL: The most significant development is that the South African government is finally responding appropriately to the situation. Since the launch of the National Strategic plan in April of this year, they are scaling up their response to the HIV/AIDS pandemic. They aim to halve infection rates, and double levels of treatment, and seem to be very committed to making a real difference, although the challenges are enormous. The South African Deputy President, Kgalema Motlanthe, and the Health Minister, Aaron Motsaledi, both attended this year’s International AIDS Conference recently, and what they said was enormously encouraging.

With regards to the boys, TAC members in their area are visiting them regularly and are monitoring their progress, which is reported to be very good. They have access to a supportive grant and are all attending school. The situation with so called “child headed households” all over Sub Saharan Africa is really dire however, which is one of the reasons I campaign for HIV positive pregnant women to receive access to medical intervention, so that they can have anti-retroviral treatment to keep them alive, and their babies have a very good chance of being born free of the virus.

FoP: The SING Campaign is obviously making a difference, but there is still work to be done, particularly in relation to the stigma associated with HIV/AIDS. Another recent video posted on the SING site told the awful story of a woman who took her own life and those of her youngest children, as a result of being persecuted by members of her community who thought she had AIDS. How widespread is this form of prejudice in South Africa, and what can be done to address it?

AL: Stigma isn’t only prevalent in South Africa, stigma is EVERYWHERE… including Scotland, or even possibly in you, dear reader!

People are afraid of HIV/AIDS. The issue is loaded with misleading myths and misnomers. Fundamentally we need decent education, so that people understand clearly how the virus is passed on, and how it’s not. It needs to come out of the closet, and be demystified, and understood, just like any other virus.

FoP: You’ve recently been made a Goodwill Ambassador for the United Nations Programme on AIDS, and a Special Envoy for the Scottish Branch of the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association. Congratulations! How might these new roles influence your work in relation to HIV/AIDS?

AL: Becoming a UNAIDS Goodwill Ambassador recently has strengthened and broadened my platform. Michel Sidibe, the director of UNAIDS is a real visionary, who has a very clear and innovative directive as to how he wants to lead the response to the HIV/AIDS pandemic (especially with regard to women and children) and has made it an objective to have zero mother to child transmission of the virus by 2015. I’ll be going to the UN in New York in September to take part in a high level conference, drawing together the major players from around the world. The dialogues that arise from these events will hopefully lead to decision making policies which should have a real long term impact. We want the millennium development goals to be reached, and as an advocate, I have the opportunity to send out the right messages to influence those who have the power to make the changes that are so desperately needed to save millions of people’s lives.

I am very much looking forward to working with the Scottish Parliament in my new role as a special envoy to the Scottish Branch of the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association (CPA). This will allow me to regularly update Members of the Scottish Parliament on developments in the fight against HIV/AIDS, particularly with regard to women and children.

To read the entire interview and find out more about the event, click here.

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