Annie Lennox runs a non-profit called SING focussed on being a Voice for HIV / AIDS women and children. http://www.annielennoxsing.com
Hearing Nelson Mandela describe the African HIV pandemic in 2003 as a genocide, with women and children as the frontline victims, was a turning point in Annie Lennox’s life. Since then, Annie has become an activist. And in 2007, she consolidated her work into the SING campaign. The money raised by SING helps prevent the spread of HIV in South Africa. But the awareness that SING raises in countries all around the world is just as important. One of SING’s aims is to increase global action to support infected and affected women and children, especially in the UK. Annie lobbies politicians, gives performances and interviews, and speaks at international events about HIV. She uses her unique voice to fight stigma and bring about change. In 2010, Annie became an official UNAIDS Goodwill Ambassador, as well as an HIV Ambassador for London and a special envoy for CPA Scotland on HIV. Comic Relief manages the SING fund, and assists in co-ordinating the SING campaign.
WHERE IS THE MONEY SPENT?
After years of fighting and winning the struggle against apartheid, the South African people are being devastated by a pandemic which is wiping out a generation of men, women and children. With a national HIV prevalence of 29.3%, the country has one of the world’s highest HIV rates. A third of all pregnant South African women are HIV positive. Many still do not have access to the HIV treatment and support that can prevent mothers passing the virus to their unborn babies. Here are two examples of projects in South Africa that SING has supported financially: The Treatment Action Campaign (TAC) TAC is an exceptional grassroots network, founded by Zackie Achmat, and 80% of its members are women. In 2007, SING funded a £300,000 grant to TAC over three years, underwritten by Comic Relief. TAC’s work includes programmes that:
- help people get access to testing and treatment
- educate South Africans about HIV
- prevent further transmission
TAC is also a strong advocate for women’s rights, and lobbies pharmaceutical companies and the government about treatment costs and policies. Since 2009, TAC has reached more than 254,241 people in the Eastern Cape with messages of hope, openness, gender equality and sound, scientific information on HIV. Working more closely with the district and provincial Departments of Health, TAC continues to highlight issues of HIV stigma, gender violence and medical and human resource shortages in communities and in the public health sector. Read more about TAC here. mothers2mothers (m2m) In April 2010, SING and Comic Relief awarded a joint grant of £400,000 over three years to help fund the core activities of m2m in South Africa. The goal of m2m is to prevent transmission of HIV from mother to child, and to empower and enable mothers with HIV to live positively, keeping them alive and healthy to raise their children. m2m trains and employs mothers living with HIV, known as ‘Mentor Mothers’, as peer educators and care providers in antenatal and post-natal clinics, and delivery wards. Mentor Mothers offer much-needed education and emotional support to pregnant women newly diagnosed with HIV, thus improving the PMTCT (prevention of mother-to-child transmission) uptake. This also promotes maternal and infant health, and empowers HIV positive women to live positively.
HOW MUCH HAS BEEN RAISED SO FAR?
Annie and the SING campaign have raised over £1m since 2007. Here are some examples of where that money has come from. Sales of the SING record and associated merchandise have raised over £100,000 so far. Members of the public from around the world continue to donate directly to SING, and UK taxpayers can also opt to allow Gift Aid (up to 25% extra) to be claimed on their donations. After Annie appeared on ‘Idol Gives Back’ in April 2008, the charity spin-off of ‘American Idol’ in the United States, they made a donation of $500,000 directly to TAC. Annie was able to present the cheque directly to TAC’s chairperson, Nonkosi Khumalo. Annie’s performance on the German television charity event Spendenmarathon in November 2008 raised over €700,000, which helped build the Vrygrond Community Centre in Capetown. This was a joint venture between the Elton John AIDS Foundation, SING and the Vrygrond Community Development Trust. It provides vital services for those affected by HIV, vulnerable children and caregivers.
WHY IS IT CALLED SING?
The stigma of HIV is so great that people are afraid to talk openly about the issue, or disclose their status. South Africa has a tradition of activist songs and singing, as a way to create solidarity and communicate messages. When people get together to sing, they become encouraged and inspired. In the words of Nelson Mandela: “Let us use the universal language of music, to sing out our message around the world”. As one of the world’s most renowned singer songwriters, Annie Lennox decided to write an anthem that could be used as a symbol of unity and empowerment, and help spread the message to the world. In the spring of 2007, she invited 23 of the most internationally acclaimed female artists to record their voices on “SING”. Watch the SING video here The recording incorporates the South African activist song, JIKELELE, which means global treatment. The song was written and recorded by The Generics, who are all members of TAC. JIKELELE calls for the implementation of the PMTCT programme across South Africa.