Charlize Theron spoke on the Today show about the Charlize Theron Africa Outreach Project's efforts to help keep African youth safe from HIV and AIDS

By Lindsay Kimble
Updated September 28, 2015 01:05 PM

Actress and activist.

Charlize Theron stopped by Today on Monday to bring attention to the deadly ongoing epidemic of HIV and AIDS in Africa.

The Oscar winner – whose organization, the Charlize Theron Africa Outreach Project, helps African youth keep themselves safe from HIV infection – said on Today that girls in her home country of South Africa are eight times more likely than boys to become HIV-positive.

“In South Africa, when I was growing up in the late ’80s and early ’90s – when the epidemic really hit and we had very little information on it – I remember being a young girl growing up with this petrifying fear because people were dying and nobody knew why,” she said. “Today we know why, and it’s completely preventable, and yet more young girls are dying today than 20 years ago and something is wrong with that.”

The 40-year-old, who started the CTAOP in 2008 to aid grassroots organizations in teaching African youth about prevention, rather than just immediate care, said that AIDS won’t be stopped until people are taught how to “not become positive.”

“What we’ve been doing is just curbing it – this is an infectious disease, you can’t curb that,” she said. “We have to stop it. We have to eliminate it completely.”

VIDEO: Charlize Theron’s Changing Looks

Theron said the Western world has become complacent on the issue.

“Right now, more young girls are dying because of that complacency,” she told Today.

The star encouraged those interested in volunteering to visit the organization’s social media accounts to find out ways to get involved and keep “the conversation flowing.”