Musician and activist Annie Lennox spoke to Entertainment Weekly about the SING campaign, which she founded in 2007 to raise awareness about the continuing effects of HIV, especially on women and children. The campaign also helps to raise funds for grassroots organizations supporting the efforts.
Lenox is half of the iconic 1980s pop-rock duo Eurythmics, and through her tenure with the group as well as a solo artist, she’s sold over 80 million albums, making her one of the best-selling musicians in the world.
Nowadays, the Oscar winner and officer of the Order of the British Empire has given her attention to full-time activism. As she said to EW, the genesis of SING arose after a memorable 2003 trip to South Africa where she heard Nelson Mandela speak on the issue of HIV.
“He described it as a genocide that was affecting women and children and mothers, and I thought there’s a great silence around this genocide because I didn’t know about it,” she remembers. During the trip, she witnessed firsthand how HIV impacted mothers and children. “I saw a lot of incredibly shocking things, and when you see these things your whole paradigm is shifted, and you either decide to forget about or you decide you want to do something,” she adds.
“I decided to start to become an advocate and an activist, and I decided to raise funds, so I would go around the world giving concerts, raising funds to give to organizations at grassroots levels,” Lennox explains.“I thought at the beginning of life when a mother delivers a baby and she’s HIV-positive, what you want to see is the baby is HIV-negative and the mother goes on treatment so she can live and have a healthy life. So if she has other children she can be alive to bring her children up. I would think that is a sort of fundamental human right. That’s the way I see it, and that is why I founded the SING campaign way back in the day in 2007 and so, wherever I go, wherever I’m raising money, I’m talking to you — this is part of the SING campaign.”
“What we really want to do is prevent people from becoming infected with HIV in the first place,” Lennox continued. “We have treatment and it works, but what we don’t have is a vaccine to prevent people from having the virus and we don’t have a cure, so we’re kind of in a strange limbo state in a funny sort of way… It’s actually easier to campaign when the crisis has come to a terrible boiling point. You used to have millions and millions of people dying very visually. People were dying in the thousands every day and that was before people could get access to treatment. Now it’s a different situation and you almost would think that HIV and AIDS has gone away, but that’s not the case, there’s still a great deal to be done.”
When asked how you can help, Lennox replied, “Get tested. Know your HIV status — it doesn’t matter who you are, how wealthy you are, how [much] safe sex you think you’ve had.”