Annie Lennox knows how celebrity controversy can act as currency in competing for media attention and public support. In 2010, she caused a stir by wearing a T-shirt printed with the words “HIV Positive” on television, which led to debate about her own health status and the continuing prevalence of the virus.
It’s once again a shocking A-list reveal — actor Charlie Sheen’s disclosure of being HIV positive — that has brought the epidemic back into the spotlight. Lennox isn’t interested in the gossip-fueled media circus surrounding Sheen, but she is passionate about improving public awareness, life-saving treatment and testing.
This year for World AIDS Day, Lennox is holding a special online auction to raise funds for women and children affected by HIV/AIDS. The auction, Books I Have Loved, includes 10 volumes hand-picked by Lennox with written reflections, which will be further personalized with handwritten messages for the winners. Bidding begins Dec. 1 and ends Dec. 8.
The Scottish singer tells us about her role in continuing to educate the world about the disease.
Why did you become an HIV/AIDS activist?
I was invited to be part of the launch of Nelson Mandela’s HIV/AIDS foundation in 2003. He organized a special concert and invited lots of great artists like Peter Gabriel, Youssou N’Dour, Beyoncé and Bono. The very next day, Mandela held a global press conference and he told the world that at that time, HIV/AIDS was a pandemic that was affecting the people of his country on a genocidal scale.
That was a wakeup call for me, as both a woman and a mother. I didn’t really understand how it could be that so few people seemed to know about the scale of what was happening and that women were the face of it.