UNAIDS’ Victoria Beckham: Women have right to health
UNITED NATIONS – “I’m a passionate supporter of women. I want to support women. I want to empower women and I believe everybody has the right to a healthy life.”
Fashion designer Victoria Beckham hailed her appointment as United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS) Goodwill Ambassador as an “incredible journey” to speak on behalf of women and children with HIV.
Beckham and UNAIDS Executive Director Michel Sidibé held a press briefing to announce her appointment at the UN Headquarters in New York on Thursday, September 25.
“I would do anything for my children and I think every woman out there has a right to health and has a right to give her children a healthy future,” said Beckham, a mother of 4.
As goodwill ambassador, Beckham will “work towards ensuring that all children are born free from HIV and that children and women who are living with and affected by HIV have access to medicine and care,” UNAIDS said. Watch the press briefing here:
Beckham said what drew her to the cause was a “life-changing” trip to Cape Town, South Africa in February where she visited women working for mothers2mothers, a charity that supporters mothers living with HIV and educates them to help prevent mother-to-child transmission of HIV.
“South Africa was a huge turning point for me. I need to stand up and use what I have to make a difference. I’m taking this very seriously and working with David as well,” she said, referring to her husband, athlete David Beckham.
UNAIDS said that antiretroviral therapy can reduce the risk of mothers living with HIV passing the virus to their children to below 5%. “However, in 2013, one third of pregnant women living with HIV did not have access to the life-saving medicines and 240,000 children became infected with HIV."
Beckham said she wants to raise awareness of the issue, and will visit South Africa again to learn more about it.
“It’s taken my getting to 40 years old to realize I have a responsibility as a woman, as a mother, I have a voice that people will listen to. I take that responsibility very seriously. This is the beginning of an incredible journey for me. I’m not gonna sit here and pretend to know everything. I don’t. I’m learning. I have people mentoring me,” she said.
Beckham said she and David have been working with charities for 20 years, including the Elton John AIDS Foundation.
“I’ve always been involved but in the background. When I visited South Africa a few months ago, it changed how I feel. I’m gonna speak on behalf of the incredible women and incredible charities working so desperately hard. I’m gonna lend my voice.”
She said she skipped the opening of her store in London on Thursday to accept her UN appointment.
"I feel so honored to be given this role, to be invited to work with your team is such an honor, an invitation that I couldn’t turn down. I have a great team in London. There was one place I knew I had to be today when I received the invitation."
The UNAIDS head said in turn, “She is a talented person who can rally, help us to certainly quicken the pace of our action, to reach our goals to certainly be able to say to the world that we don’t have anymore babies born with HIV and that’s why we are so happy to have you with us.”
‘Not trying to be Angelina Jolie’
Beckham is the latest celebrity the UN tapped to champion its causes. Two weeks ago, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon appointed actor Leonardo DiCaprio Messenger of Peace, focusing on climate change issues. British actress Emma Watson is also a Goodwill Ambassador for UN Women, delivering a powerful speech over the weekend on feminism.
The former Spice Girls member was asked whether or not she was following the footsteps of Angelina Jolie, a Goodwill Ambassador for the UN High Commissioner for Refugees.
“I’m not trying to be anybody other than myself,” Beckham said. “I don’t know what I can do. I want to learn from Michel, the UN and the charities. I just wanna do what I can do. I wanna travel as much as I can.”
“It wasn’t until I went to Africa and I could see with my own eyes and hear with my own ears, it wasn’t until then that I got it. I feel I can’t speak passionately from the heart unless I visit the countries, meet with women and the children.”
Before her UN appointment, Beckham said she already gave proceeds from her fashion line to mothers2mothers to benefit the women with HIV in South Africa.
“What I did was I auctioned off all of my clothes that I had, some a little embarrassing, I’m not gonna lie,” she quipped.
Turning serious, Beckham said, “I have never ever met women so strong, so focused, so passionate and women who want to help women. I am a strong supporter of women. I want to empower women. I want to make women feel powerful.” – Rappler.com