Of the 44 million people worldwide believed infected with the AIDS virus, well over three million are children. And it’s estimated more than two thousand children are infected with HIV each day. Those statistics are the driving force behind “AIDS Walk Africa,” a seven-day fundraising event sponsored by the Elizabeth Glaser Pediatric AIDS Foundation.
It began today in South Africa’s KwaZulu-Natal Province and will continue through October 14th. Organizers hope to raise 250 thousand dollars through individual fundraising by the walkers and corporate sponsorship. Among the participants are African and other international celebrities. One American joining the walkers is Kimberly Locke, one of the stars of the popular American television program American Idol. Kimberly will be joining us each day to talk about her experiences.
From Durban, she spoke with English to Africa reporter Joe De Capua about how she became involved in the fight against HIV/AIDS. She says she was invited to take part in a children’s festival sponsored by the foundation. Then, after expressing interest in their cause, she was invited to take part in the AIDS walk.
On the first day of the event, Ms. Locke spent much of her time meeting with local officials and residents and learning more about the HIV/AIDS pandemic in South Africa. She says, “The walkers will experience first hand the reality of the pandemic.” She’s not sure what to expect. She says, “When I first said I would do this I was really excited and then they sent me my packet (of information). And then I got really scared. Once I realized I’m going to a country where people are dealing with this on a day to day basis, not just a few thousands of people, but millions of people are affected by this – I was taken aback by that mental picture. And I actually asked myself if I was prepared to go into the hospitals and clinics and villages and see people who are affected by this.” Over the next few days, Kimberly Locke says she expects to realize how fortunate she has been over the past year since her appearance on American Idol but that this experience will put things in perspective.