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BBC's Talking Point
November 16, 2003

Below are excerpts from Gillian's participation in the BBC's Talking Point. Click here for a full transcript.

Robin Lustig: Gillian Anderson, people know you around the world as an actress, how did you come to be involved in this campaign?

Gillian Anderson: I've been involved in an organisation called Artists for a new South Africa, for a while and I'm on the board and I was invited to join Zackie Achmat of Treatment Action Campaign, when they came here over the summer. And he introduced me to ACTSA, which is Action for Southern Africa.

And then I was asked to speak at a conference which took place last weekend and my initial thought was why not, that would be great, I can be of service in that way and then I realised while I was doing research for my speech that I was completely naive about the seriousness of the pandemic and even now I have been actively working here and there over the past few years around the issue of AIDS/HIV it really hadn't - the import of this particular - of this pandemic, of this catastrophe - had not really hit me.

Robin Lustig: So what you're trying to do then is to get that message across to millions of other people who like you perhaps until recently .

Gillian Anderson: Well I think so yes, and say I had been naive, and I'm still naive, I'm not an expert, there's so much that I don't understand but what I do understand is that - is the absolute necessity for our governments, our Western governments, our wealthy governments to put a huge amount of energy, more energy than they have been putting, in a financial way towards certain aspects that will promote the biggest change in this issue that we can.

Robin Lustig: Gillian Anderson what do you think when you hear a story like Heidi's?

Gillian Anderson: It's an incredibly powerful story, I don't think that a lot of people realise how possible it is still for people, and heterosexual people, to have access to AIDS in America. And I heard a statistic recently and I just wanted to check whether that was true or not but that 50% now of people who get AIDS in America are actually heterosexual and the amount of transmission quite frequently happens from the woman to the man, men are increasingly getting AIDS and HIV from women and I think it's dumbfounding them. And I was just curious about whether you knew whether that was .

Robin Lustig: Gillian Anderson you were talking about your experience in South Africa and what you've been told by the people you met there, was it your experience that there was still a huge amount of ignorance?

Gillian Anderson: I think there is a lot of ignorance. I also think that South Africa is doing more than they ever have before and I'm not sure whether you've spoken about this on the programme yet but about the quadrupling of the budget recently in South Africa towards support of work in AIDS. And I think that a lot of countries in Africa are actually making huge and positive steps and the awareness is being raised. I think there's always more that can be done and certainly there are organisations that can lead someone to the right information that you're looking for - an organisation like Treatment Action Campaign, TAC which is - you can get in touch with them and they might be able to put you in touch with people who specifically deal with children.

Robin Lustig: But it's difficult with a taboo isn't it, because anything to do with sex is very difficult for young people to talk about, it's difficult sometimes for teachers to talk to children about, if it's to do with something - an infection that is the result of sexual activity it's tough.

Gillian Anderson: Sure it's tough but it's a fact of our life in the world that we are living in today. And I think it's absolutely necessary for us to put all our squeamishness and the taboo behind us in - effectively to save lives. And that should come first and foremost.

Robin Lustig: Gillian Anderson on the money issue, is part of what you're campaigning for just very simply to persuade more of the richer countries to make available more money to help those in the poorer parts of the world?

Gillian Anderson: Yeah, I think so on the whole. I mean there's the Global Fund right now which is very young but is a really wonderful idea and set up to have some of the richest countries in the world contribute money to the Fund so that it ends up getting siphoned to the right governments and the right countries according to their need. And they also are aware of the need within the individual countries to specifically relate it to how it's necessary culturally within that area. And something like that is an opportunity for huge change to happen globally.

But it's a matter of getting the funds in there and there have been many promises made by governments about the amount of money that would be put to the Global Fund and it just has not happened. And the Global Fund right now is in a really scary place and it's a one opportunity for us to be incredibly effective. And it's not only something for our governments but also for multinational companies, businesses, to really take a positive proactive approach and not just a one time only donation towards the fund but to do it over time. But it's absolutely necessary in order to get the funds distributed.

Robin Lustig: Gillian Anderson I know when I was in South Africa three years ago I saw some children who had been born HIV positive who were in a very sorry state indeed, I don't know if you saw any as well, but do you have any thoughts on what can be done most effectively to help them?

Gillian Anderson: Well I think what Carol was saying about a network, about the necessity for networks to understand what is needed within each community and also what the caller was talking about, about what we were discussing before, in terms of the taboo and having conversations between social workers or church based groups with local communities about how it needs to be approached most effectively to allow even the conversation to take place.

But I think that one thing that Carol was pointing towards which is it's very easy to forget, when you think of children somewhere else, in other countries, that's one thing, but we have to remember that these children are also the future of those countries and these children are meant to be the ones who are going to help the countries to develop and build up their social structures and if they're not around either, as well as the communities right now that are being wiped out because AIDS affects people so much in the most vital ages of their life, it's wiping out teachers, it's wiping out doctors, nurses, children. So there are going to be no members of society left to help these countries develop, even once the funds get in there to help them develop.

Robin Lustig: Okay Linley thanks very much indeed for that, that's very interesting. Gillian Anderson the whole subject of the relationship between men and women, it all comes together in this one issue doesn't it, because sex is at the centre of it so often and HIV is there?

Gillian Anderson: Well I was doing some reading recently and there are many roads going throughout Africa and Southern Africa specifically that are truck routes and there are these truck stops along the way where men stop overnight and they have rooms in the back of the truck stops that are specifically sex rooms basically for prostitutes. So here's the situation where it's been carried from place to place to place across the continent and how do you stop that, how do you go in there and hand out condoms, how do you go in there and try and educate the truckers or the prostitutes? It's a very, very complicated and serious situation.

Robin Lustig: Gillian Anderson I know that your interest is primarily in South Africa, there's been a lot of controversy about the political degree of seriousness that the government has been showing towards it, are you persuaded that the government there is now doing what needs to be done?

Gillian Anderson: And in other areas of Southern Africa as well, which is where a great deal of my interest is, there have been huge movements recently in - actually Zimbabwe showed some surprising statistics in terms of the funds that are going towards helping HIV and AIDS.

Robin Lustig: So there is a change is there?

Gillian Anderson: There is definitely a change and it's a very, very positive change but one thing that I keep wanting to stress is that yes the quotes of the billions of dollars, when you hear, as a civilian, billions of dollars that are going from our government towards HIV and AIDS worldwide it sounds absolutely phenomenal and it is but it's not enough. If we're spending $300 billion a year on subsidising agriculture we can put $10-15 billion a year towards fighting HIV and AIDS.

And the way to get other governments to be interested - the Russian government to be interested and proactive as well - is to show that we have the political will that's appropriate to the situation to move forward and if we stand up and say this is far and beyond the most serious dilemma that's facing our entire planet right now and we are going to put as much effort and energy forward to putting the money into the Global Fund to getting it to the right places, so it goes from the communities down to the grass roots, and this is at the top of our priorities, then the other governments might start to pay attention too.

Transcript appears courtesy of the BBC.

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