Ashley Judd Talks About Her Passion Project

The actress travels to Central America to help bring attention to the region's HIV/AIDS crisis

Ashley Judd has one film in theaters (Come Early Morning) and another on the way (Bug, due in early 2007) – but it’s her role as activist that has her most excited.

In May, Judd, 38, traveled to Central America as a global ambassador for YouthAIDS, a nonprofit dedicated to educating young people around the world about HIV/AIDS. Now a documentary about her trip, Ashley Judd and YouthAIDS: Confronting the Pandemic, is set to debut on TLC on Dec. 1.

The film, which airs on World AIDS Day, chronicles Judd’s journey – along with pal and fellow YouthAIDS ambassador Salma Hayek – through communities in Guatemala, Honduras and Nicaragua that have been devastated by HIV/AIDS.

“All the conditions are perfectly in place for an HIV/AIDS emergency on the scale of Africa to erupt,” Judd tells PEOPLE of Central America.

Judd joined the fight against AIDS in 2001 after receiving calls from Project (RED) co-founders Bobby Shriver and Bono. “(U2’s) music has been absolutely fundamental to my development as an activist,” she says. “It’s always great when Bono calls, for obvious reasons.”

Since then, Judd has visited nine countries with YouthAIDS. This is her second documentary for the group; the first was Tracking the Monster Ashley Judd and India.Arie Confront AIDS in Africa.

In the new doc, Judd comes face to face with the disease in hospices, clinics, brothels and slums. Taking care of herself in the face of such difficult realities, Judd says, is important, and something she’s better prepared to do since seeking treatment for depression in February.

“I have so many more tools now,” she says. “My self-care is really good.”

She also gains strength from her husband of five years, racecar driver Dario Franchitti, 33. “He is so supportive in just the right way,” she says. “Pitch-perfect.”

Judd will travel to India with YouthAIDS in March. For more information on YouthAIDS, visit http://projects.psi.org/. Ashley Judd and YouthAIDS: Confronting the Pandemic airs Dec. 1 at 8 p.m. ET/PT on TLC.

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