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Ashley Judd on AIDS in Africa

Ashley Judd took a break from the movie she was making in England to join ‘Scarborough Country’ and share her AIDS cause, and how she thinks Americans can help make a difference.

Ashley Judd took a break from the movie she was making in England to join ‘Scarborough Country’ and share her AIDS cause, and how she thinks Americans can help make a difference.

ASHLEY JUDD, ACTRESS: I became involved with the AIDS emergency initially when I was contacted by Youth AIDS, a terrific organization out of Washington. They asked me to be their spokesperson. And so I really did a lot of investigating about Youth AIDS and who are they, and what they represent, and how were they effecting positive change in the world.

On the heels of that call came a call from my friend, Bono, asking me to go on a Midwestern tour of the United States, to the heart of America, if you will, to educate people about the AIDS emergency and to urge our government to spend money that we’d already given the government permission to spend, helping fight HIV/AIDS in sub Saharan Africa.

My husband and I went on this tour with Bono, and this incredible woman named Agnes, who is an HIV positive activist from Uganda. And it all effected wonderful progress. The reason I’m here with you tonight is because the president has made this extraordinary promise on behalf of 30 million HIV-infected and dying people in Africa, and we just need Congress to keep the promise that the president has already made. It’s not nice to make a promise to people who are in misery and dying, and then not keep the terms of your promise.

JOE SCARBOROUGH, HOST: You wrote an op-ed piece in a local Kentucky paper and you did that to put some pressure on Senator Mitch McConnell, who obviously plays a key roll in Congress. Do you feel like your voice was heard by Senator McConnell?

JUDD: Senator McConnell, have you heard my voice? I sure hope it was. He’s an incredibly powerful man. He’s chairman of the Ways and Means Committee and it all stops with him. The Senate has already cut some of the money promised in this first year of this $15 billion rollout. The people here in the United Kingdom seem to be more familiar with the president’s promise, which he articulated in his State of Union Address seven months ago.

He just did this very fantastic five-country tour of Africa. He even met Agnes in Uganda and was able to spend over an hour with her behind closed doors. But a lot of Americans aren’t quite familiar with this yet. You’ve got the poorest part of our planet needing this kind of assistance, and it’s so easy for us.

We’ve got these drugs that we take for granted. You take this drug that costs $1 a day, and it gives you the Lazarus effect. You’re HIV positive, you’re on your deathbed, but you take this anti-retro viral drug, and you speak, you self feed. You sit up. Within three weeks you’re walking, and then you go back to caring for your family and being a productive member of the community and help rebuild the infrastructure of your almost crushed nation. The Africans, they don’t have this drug because of money, and we can change that.

SCARBOROUGH: What would a $15 billion infusion of support from America mean to those countries on a personal level?

JUDD: The scenario faced by so many millions of Africans is one that is absolutely mind-boggling to me. A family in which more than one person is sick, more than one person is HIV positive, but only has the money to buy the anti-retro viral drug for one person. So who gets that medicine? The mother? Or the child who so desperately needs the care of the mother?

It’s absolutely diabolical.

SCARBOROUGH: What do you make of some celebrities stepping into the political fray the way they do and getting attacked? While others like yourself and your friend, Bono, have stepped in and really made a difference? I think, most Americans and most people in the world actually admire what you’ve done.

JUDD: That’s a really big can of worms. I think that activism is really important. I think it’s important for people to not only know what they believe in it, and why they believe in it, but to do something about it. And the situation with HIV/AIDS unfortunately is that it’s not just a quote/unquote cause. It’s an emergency.