Actress Watts is now UNAIDS envoy
An Oscar nominee, Watts has starred in internationally-acclaimed films such as King Kong, The Ring, 21 Grams, and Mulholland Drive. A statement issued in Lusaka says as UNAIDS Special Representative, Watts would use her talent and profile to raise AIDS awareness and give greater voice to the needs of people living with HIV worldwide. Conferring Watt with the special responsibility on Monday, UNAIDS Executive Director Dr Peter Piot said: “Today, I am very pleased to appoint Naomi Watts as UNAIDS Special Representative. “Through her determination to make a difference, I know that she will be a strong and eloquent advocate for an enhanced global AIDS response. “I am also confident that the unique presence and passion that Ms Watts brings to this issue will remind concerned citizens everywhere of the urgent need for serious and sustained action in the global fight against AIDS and the vital role of the United Nations in this effort,” he added. Watts’ appointment comes immediately on the heels of her UNAIDS-led fact-finding mission to Zambia. During her week-long mission, Watts visited clinics, hospitals, homes, schools, and shelters in urban centres and rural villages, dialogued with networks of people living with HIV, non-governmental organisations, peer educators, community outreach workers, nurses and support groups. She also met with the First Lady of Zambia, Maureen Mwanawasa. During the special ceremony in New York, Watts recounted what she saw while in Zambia. “I saw first-hand the devastating impact of AIDS on individuals, families, and communities,” she said. “I was both humbled and inspired by the strength and courage of the women, men and children I met, who are truly moving mountains to save lives. They are the real heroes in this fight. “I only hope that, as a UNAIDS Special Representative, I can do my small part to raise AIDS awareness and to encourage greater international support for the vital work being done on the ground. I have seen that every one of us can make a difference ‘ and I am anxious to join UNAIDS in this effort.” According to UNAIDS, nearly 40 million people are living with HIV worldwide. Young people under the age of 25 make up about half of new HIV infections worldwide while every minute a child dies of an AIDS-related illness and similarly every minute a child becomes infected with HIV.