On Monday, the 2016 International AIDs Conference commenced in Durban, South Africa with Oscar-winning actress Charlize Theron delivering a passionate opening address about the AIDS crisis that affects nearly 37 million people worldwide.
"I think it's time we face the truth about the unjust world we live in," she said. "The truth is, we have every tool we need to prevent the spread of HIV."
Theron, a native South African, listed contraceptives, education and awareness as resources we can utilize to prevent HIV. She then described some of the underlying causes of HIV that are often ignored.
"HIV is not just transmitted by sex," Theron said. "It's transmitted by sexism, racism, poverty and homophobia."
In her speech, Theron called out numerous forms of oppression as the culprits behind the spread of the virus.
"We value men more than women. Straight love more than gay love. White skin more than black skin. The rich more than the poor," Theron said. "I know this because AIDS does not discriminate on its own. It has no biological preference. It doesn't single out the vulnerable, the oppressed or the abused. We single out the vulnerable, the oppressed and the abused."
According to HIV education and prevention charity AVERT, women are at a higher risk of HIV infection than men. In particular, young women account for a disproportionate number of new HIV infections. Meanwhile, the CDC estimates that HIV affects African Americans proportionally more than any other race or ethnicity in the U.S.
Theron said that in order to stop AIDS, we must first "cure the disease within our own hearts and within our own minds."
"The solution to this epidemic isn't just in our laboratories, offices, or conference centers like this one," she said. "It's in our communities, in our schools and streets — where a smart choice or a helping hand can mean the difference between life and death. "
People on social media praised Theron for shedding light on the social causes of HIV transmission.