Introducing the Charlize Theron Africa Outreach Project

New for 2014, FCAA will be working to introduce the work of members and other top funders (as noted in our annual resource tracking publication). We’re pleased to share this blog from one of FCAA’s newest member organizations: the Charlize Theron Africa Outreach Project (CTAOP). With a new movie coming out, you may be seeing a lot of Charlize Theron this month,. Here’s an exciting chance to learn more about her philanthropic efforts, and the work of CTAOP to help keep African youth safe from HIV/AIDS.  

On behalf of everyone here at the CTAOP, we are excited to join FCAA and such an amazing group of funders. We are constantly inspired by the wonderful work being done in the fight against HIV, and truly believe it is possible to see the end of AIDS in our lifetime. This is because AIDS is a disease we know how to prevent.  And while the world works on finding a cure and a vaccine, there is much to be done to help prevent AIDS-related deaths.  We now have the ability to prevent vertical transmission, which is an amazing feat; but once these babies are born HIV-free, how are we keeping them safe?  Charlize Theron founded her Africa Outreach Project with the belief that the future belongs to the young people, and to invest in a country’s future means investing in the health of its youth. But it is not always easy, especially in a country like South Africa.  With over six million people living with HIV, South Africa carries the largest burden of the disease in the world.  And the future is not looking much better for certain populations.  Today’s teenagers in some of the worst affected parts of the country have a 50% chance of contracting HIV during their lifetime.  The recent prevalence survey released in April has many worried about trends in South Africa, with condom use and knowledge of HIV transmission and prevention showing significant declines, and increases in the number of sexual partners. Frighteningly, HIV in girls aged 15-19 is eight times higher than in boys the same age, which shows that this is a group that is still falling through the cracks.

Here at CTAOP, we invest in community-based organizations that provide young people with the tools and skills they need to protect themselves against HIV and live healthy, productive lives.  We support programs that work in the areas of knowledge, behavior, and attitudes.  Experience has taught us that knowledge forms a basis to be able to make good decisions, but without addressing issues like gender disparities, self-efficacy, stigma, or the ability to negotiate safe relationships, knowledge may be rendered powerless.

Policy and legal reform certainly have their place, but permanent change cannot happen without community buy-in.  Despite setbacks (due to poor political will, lack of health services, stigma, lack of funding, etc) it is the communities who have continued to solve the challenges – before, during, and long after the world’s eyes were on South Africa as the epicenter of the epidemic. Community members are the experts on the ground and are intelligent, resourceful, innovative, and passionate about making their communities better. They are the ones reaching the individuals that are falling through the cracks, but they need more support.

Our goal is to identify innovative HIV prevention programs, and then help organizations gain the capacity to become as effective and efficient as possible.  While some may be scalable, all programs have lessons that can be translated to other environments.  We also use lessons learned from the community-based organizations to help inform Charlize’s advocacy efforts at the policy level with groups like The Global Fund, UNAIDS, and the South African government.  This helps ensure that policy remains connected to realities on the ground.

All this said, we realize that the days of working in silos are over, and we continue to seek and promote collaborative partnerships across public and private sectors to increase both the efficiency and effectiveness of programs on the ground. Partnerships are essential if we are going to see the end of HIV – we can’t be in competition for funding.  It has to be about the BIG picture.  For example, in 2013 we linked the German government with innovative, community-based projects that fell within their mission, bringing additional resources and capacity directly to the ground.  Currently, we are exploring opportunities for collaboration with Keep a Child Alive (KCA).  While CTAOP focuses mostly on prevention and KCA on HIV care and treatment, both take a community-based approach and are equally important, complementary pieces of ending HIV.  We hope to be able to show how collaboration can exponentially increase the impact when we take two successful charities and put our efforts together to help provide a deeper level of engagement.  Both organizations believe that it’s vital for communities to have access to programs that offer a continuum of care.

HIV is possibly the most complex epidemic the world has ever seen. And complex problems require approaches that address solutions from every angle. There is no silver bullet, but if all of us utilize each other’s strengths we can create higher impact responses.  We are most powerful when we are bound together, committed to the shared goal of reinvigorating the AIDS movement and ending this epidemic.  CTAOP is proud to be part of this amazing group of funders, because everyone is playing an important part in this fight against HIV, and we believe that united we will see the end of AIDS.

Learn more about CTAOP:

If you’re interested in sharing your work in this format, or talking about the importance of resource tracking, please e-mail [email protected].