No woman does short hair or electropop better than Annie Lennox.

The Scottish singer has been an icon since shooting to fame with the Eurythmics two decades ago. The “Greatest White Soul Singer Alive” won a 2004 Academy Award for best original song.

This year she released The Annie Lennox Collection. But these days, Lennox’s heart belongs less to Billboard charts and more to dying children. She campaigns on behalf of African children infected with AIDS. She talked exclusively with Metro.

Q. After more than two decades of awareness campaigns, why are so many African children dying of AIDS?

If you have money, then you can always get access to medical care and treatment. But if you are poor it’s a very different story, especially as health care systems in most African countries are completely inefficient and under-staffed. On top of that, many people still don’t really understand how people get infected by HIV.

Q. Whose fault is it?

Apart from warfare and natural disasters such as floods or droughts, very often chronic poverty has been caused by the fact that in the 20th and 21st century, leaders, governments and economic systems have not served the people well. Up till now, there has not been the necessary will to create essential change, so that when people are born into poverty, they’re stuck there.

Q. What’s your reaction when South African politicians suggest AIDS can be cured with traditional medicines?

During Tabo Mbeki’s rule as president of South Africa, his health minister, Manto Tshabalala-Msimang, advocated that AIDS could be treated with vitamins, garlic, lemon juice, beetroot and olive oil. It’s shocking to think that a person in such an important position could take a stand like this. Many African people often mistrust Western medicine, and in any case it’s not available or affordable to them, so they go to traditional healers. I would like people to have the opportunity to access medicine if they need it. It should be a personal decision, but many millions of people don’t even have that option.

Q. How did AIDS among children become your biggest passion?

I performed for the launch of Nelson Mandela’s HIV/AIDS campaign in 2003, and afterward all the artists were invited to join him on Robben Island, where he had been imprisoned. Mandela described the HIV/AIDS pandemic as a “genocide” that was wiping out millions of lives, including women and children. That was the point when I sat up and really paid attention. Because we live in a celebrity-fixated culture, the deaths of millions of people through AIDS rarely hits the headlines. ...I felt that it is something I couldn’t walk away from.

Q. What can children in other countries do to help?

I think the first step is to find out what HIV/AIDS is, how it’s transmitted, and how it affects people’s lives. That way you educate yourself and understand the difference between sharing a cup and sharing a needle!

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