The Charlize Theron Africa Outreach Project, which works to assist HIV/AIDS prevention in Theron’s native South Africa, might bear the actress’s name, but when Theron established the org in 2007, the last thing she wanted was to go it alone.
“The idea of the program at its birth was really to see how we could help existing prevention organizations under an umbrella of prevention care,” she says. “Even though we do a lot of ground work in finding the organizations to support, the real work is done by the organizations that are living and breathing in those communities where the numbers are so incredibly high.”
South Africa suffers from truly catastrophic HIV rates, yet accessibility issues have long hampered prevention efforts in some of the most desperate communities. Despite logging one of the highest infection rates on earth (in 2009, 39% of the region’s population of 10 million was infected), the eastern KwaZulu-Natal province contained only three HIV treatment orgs back when Theron’s org was founded. “You drive through today, and it’s nothing like it was back then,” she says.
Theron credits her South African background with helping her connect to communities and organizations that might have been suspicious of international meddling. “You have to know the people you’re dealing with if you want to create something that in 10 years can be completely sustainable,” she says.
The Charlize Theron Africa Outreach Project
Supports nonprofits operating in South Africa that provide mobile health services, education, screenings, HIV testing, treatment and other HIV-related services to impoverished communities (Charlizeafricaoutreach.org).