By Elizabeth Willoughby on
Screen star Charlize Theron is bringing life saving information to rural kids in KwaZulu-Natal, a province that holds the unfortunate record of the highest HIV infection rate in South Africa.
Where sex, teenage pregnancy, rape and HIV are taboo topics and half of all females are expected to contract AIDS, 10 percent of them before graduating high-school, Theron created the Charlize Theron African Outreach Project and partnered with Oprah's Angel Network to assist the charity Mpilonhle in bringing education, free condoms, HIV testing and treatment to the kids via a mobile health and computer clinic.
Theron says, “Medical staff told me many students here have lost one or both parents to AIDS. The mobile clinic is one of the few places offering help, guidance and a safe place to talk.”
Launched last November, the clinic spends one week per month at each of four remote high-schools where thousands of students receive computer training sessions and health education workshops with a special focus on HIV, plus a visit with an HIV counselor and a nurse. Tuberculosis, cholera and schistosomiasis, a debilitating parasitic infection, are some of the diseases that also plague this area due to limited access to clean water.
The clinic is already having a positive effect. One grade 11 student said, “After I finish grade 12 I know it will help me in the future. Maybe I will be a teller working with the computer. I thank you Mpilonhle because my future is in my hands – it is up to me to reach my goals.”
Theron’s presence in her home country has also made an impression: “Most of us are afraid to dream just because we are afraid our dreams won’t come true,” said one inspired student. “(Charlize) has awakened my dream of becoming a business woman. And I know that someday I’m going to achieve this.”
Theron says, “You come here, and you see how people are struggling. And then you see the spirit of these people and how resilient they are. That’s the miracle.”
Copyright © 2008 Look to the Stars