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Old News Can be “Good News”

4 January, 2011

Annie Lennox, international singer and UNAIDS Goodwill Ambassador, has been awarded the Order of the British Empire (OBE), an honour conferred by Queen Elizabeth II. The announcement was made on 31 December as part of the 2011 New Year Honours list.

The honour recognizes Ms Lennox for her commitment and dedication to the global AIDS response and supporting development goals to end poverty.

Michel Sidibé and Annie Lennox at a gender and HIV event in New York in 2010. Credit/Source: UNAIDS/B. Hamilton  

Since becoming aUNAIDS Goodwill Ambassador in 2010, Ms Lennox has advocated for the greater inclusion of women in national HIV programmes as well as ending violence against women and girls.

“On behalf of the UNAIDS family, I congratulate Ms Lennox on receiving this prestigious award,” said UNAIDS Executive Director Michel Sidibé. “Ms Lennox is a tireless advocate for the voiceless and serves as a role model for millions of people around the world.”

Below is an interview with Ms Lennox that was first published in UNAIDS OUTLOOK:

What has inspired you to be such a passionate advocate?
Several years ago I was given the opportunity to visit people and places that have been devastated by the AIDS pandemic, and I started to understand that women and children are on the actual frontline of this issue. The scale of wipe-out is simply massive, yet the subject is more than oft en off the Western media’s radar. As a woman and mother, I feel compelled to speak out, and try to raise awareness in the best way I can, to try to use my platform to do so.

As UNAIDS newest Goodwill Ambassador, what are your goals?
HIV is a complex issue, with many different facets that need to be addressed. Until there is a vaccine or a cure, the solutions are not straightforward. Up to this point in time my focus has been mainly on South Africa, a country with one of the highest HIV prevalences and where approximately one in three pregnant women are HIV-positive.

With the launch of the national strategic plan, which aims to halve the infection rate and double the roll-out of treatment, I’m hoping to see some kind of improvement; however, with the economic turndown, and the capping of donor budgets, I’m very concerned that these goals will not be reached, and additionally concerned as to what the coming future will look like, all over sub-Saharan Africa. My key objective lies with women and children, particularly with respect to access to life-saving treatment, which ought to be a fundamental human right, but tragically for millions of people is out of reach.

I will take advice from UNAIDS and try to utilize my resources and platform to keep sending out that message and do whatever is in my power to make a difference.

What can we do to move the AIDS response forward?
Good question! I ask myself that every single day. I think the only answer is to stay committed, and not give way to despair.

So, we would like to ask you a few lighter questions…

Where did you live as a child?
I spent my first eight years living with my parents in a two-roomed tenement flat in Aberdeen in the north-east of Scotland, then we moved into one of the first high-rise council blocks to be built in the city, which felt very modern and luxurious at the time, because we had a ‘proper’ bathroom, with a bath inside the flat, hot running water from the tap, a telephone and my own bedroom!

How do you relax?
I go to bed! The best place to be when I need to recharge and unwind!

What is your favourite food?
I love all kinds of food. Japanese and Italian particularly.

Who is your hero?
Nelson Mandela.

What is your favourite piece of music?
That’s an impossible question to answer really, because I love music in all its infinite forms. My taste is definitely eclectic. Perhaps the best way to answer this is to say that I love soul music. Go figure!

What is your favorite book?
Anything with pictures and a good cover!

What is your favorite film?
This is Spinal Tap.

What is your happiest memory?
Delivering both my daughters safely into the world.

What motivates you?
As a mother and woman I empathize and identify with my gender, especially with women in developing countries, who have so little in terms of emancipation, empowerment, human rights, access to education, medical treatment, reproductive rights, etc. I feel so grateful to have received these kinds of privileges in my life, and realizing that it is absolutely not a given for two thirds of the world’s poorest people (women) I want to contribute and use my platform and resources to try to make a difference.

What human quality do you most admire?
Kindness.

What do you most value in your friends?
Whatever it is that drew us together in the first place. Rapport is almost indefinable and certainly unquantifiable.

If you could be granted one wish in life, what would you ask for?
To heal the planet of all its violent destruction and madness. Well, you did ask!

What do you want to be when you grow up?
Fully enlightened.

Where is your favourite place?
My bedroom.

What is your motto?
I don’t have one… never joined the girl guides!

 

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