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How HIV has Shaped Charlize Theron's Life

Charlize Theron Talks HIV

The Oscar winning actor opened up about painful childhood experiences with HIV and AIDS at her organization’s anniversary dinner.

This Thursday, at famed restaurant Georgie in the Montage Beverly Hills, the stars came out to celebrate the 10th anniversary of the Charlize Theron Africa Outreach Project. CTAOP focuses on HIV prevention for African youths, as well as helps young people already living with the virus. The respected award-winning actor for whom the foundation is named shared intimate details from her childhood in South Africa — events that ultimately inspired her to start the organization, as detailed in The Hollywood Reporter.

“CTAOP was a dream of mine from for as long as I can remember,” Charlize Theron told the intimate crowd of celebs and VIP guests. “As long as I was a young little girl in South Africa about to enter my own adolescence when HIV and AIDS started popping its ugly head out. It was a dream of mine when I remember being in a car with my mom driving one of her employees to the hospital. And the week after that, we did it again,” she recalled.

“People were dying and nobody knew why,” continued Theron. “As a young girl, it was incredibly frightening. In the early '90s, I came over here [to the U.S.] and I was fortunate enough to have a dream job doing something that I absolutely love. I felt so lucky, but every time I went back to South Africa, I saw the devastation that HIV/AIDS was causing.”

CTAOP was created in 2007 by Theron, who is also a UN Messenger of Peace, with “the hope of making a difference in fighting HIV in her home country of South Africa.” Although the geographic scope of CTAOP is Sub-Saharan Africa, South Africa has remained the primary area of focus with the highest number of people living with HIV in the world.

After she spoke, Theron then invited Georgie owner, Geoffrey Zakarian, to the microphone, calling him “the man of the evening” and “the reason why we are all here.” Theron added, in her typical uncensored way, that two years ago Zakarian joined the “fucked-up little family” that is the CTAOP team. “You bring a lot of class to this,” she mused, and admitted to having some wine before the event.

“I love fucked-up families!” Zakarian retorted as he took the stage, before getting a little more serious and later commended Theron for the “dignity” and “grace” she displays through her work with CTAOP. “I'm incredibly touched by the work that you do. [Watching the video] made me cry. The children's eyes have such dignity and respect,” he said speaking about an emotional clip of the group’s recent trip to Africa, which also included Theron’s friends and foundation supporters Chelsea Handler, Trevor Noah, and Mary McCormack.

This year, CTAOP announced a new program in which they will provide educational scholarships for young girls living with HIV in South Africa.

Click here for more info about CTAOP and how you can help.

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