The pair had first met and collaborated in the ‘The Tourists,’ but it was the music of the ‘Eurythmics’ that would catapult them both to international stardom: they had just returned from the US where there single ‘Sweet Dreams Are Made of This,’ was number one in the Billboard Top 100.
In her late 20’s at the time, Annie had the demeanour of a ‘strong confident women’ her short cropped red hair, androgynous plaid trouser suits and signature leather gloves, made her a fashion icon, her look was copied by women everywhere.
But, the full impact of the HIV/Aids epidemic was unknown in 1983, and not even Annie could have known the ‘tour de force’ that she would become in her later years.
Today, Annie Lennox is not only famous for her distinctive voice with its raspy tones, but for her humanitarian work and in particular as a proud and loud HIV Activist.
It all started when she was asked by Nelson Mandela to perform at the 46664 concert in South Africa in 2003, and later when she met Avelile a seven-year-old girl with HIV. She had helped raise money for HIV/Aids in the past, but it was in South Africa that she got a ‘ wake up call ‘ on the seriousness of the pandemic. Since then she has been a tireless campaigner raising HIV awareness: with a particular focus on woman’s rights, criminalisation and stigma and discrimination.
Annie says “I work with Treatment Action Campaign in South Africa, which fights for the rights of people with HIV, the chronically poor with no rights or protection. It’s outrageous that women just die by the wayside, their children left as orphans – there are approximately 12 million AIDS orphans across Africa. Having seen it for myself, it completely changed my paradigm.
“I decided to focus on South Africa as that was the country that I had my wake-up call about the scale of the HIV/ AIDS pandemic. I shared a connection with Mandela, a man who represents the nobility of the human spirit. Yet even when Mandela spoke out about HIV, people didn’t take that call-to-action, so a country which had struggled with apartheid, now inherited this pandemic.”
In 2003 1000 people were dying every day from HIV/Aids in South Africa.
“I wear my HIV Positive t-shirt in solidarity with those who are affected or infected”
THE GLOBAL EPIDEMIC
In her role as UN ambassador to UNAIDS Annie is well informed on the progression of the epidemic and the challenges that lay ahead. Annie told Positive Pulse: “The new Global Report from UNAIDS shows that fewer people are becoming infected with HIV and that we have broken the trajectory of the AIDS epidemic. We have reached the first part of the Millennium Development Goals of halting and reversing the spread of HIV.
“In less than five years, we have crossed the half way mark towards providing medicines to HIV positive pregnant women, in order to prevent transmission of the virus to their babies securing better health for mothers and children.
“The fight is far from over. We still have a long way to go. We need to continue to strengthen our focus on the needs and rights of young women, who are particularly vulnerable to HIV.”
Present when Mandela described the African HIV pandemic in 2003 as genocide, one in which women and children were the frontline victims, was a turning point in Annie Lennox’s life.
In 2007 Annie consolidated her work into the SING campaign and a single was planned. She invited 23 international female artists including: Celine Dion. Madonna. Joss Stone and the Sugababes and many more…They raised £100k from the single.
To date a total of over £1 million in donations have used to help SING to prevent the spread of HIV in South Africa. SING raises awareness in other countries also, including the UK; this is helping to increase global action to support infected and affected women and children.
THE ANNIE LENNOX FOUNDATION
The Annie Lennox Foundation raises money for projects supporting and educating women and children in Africa, who are living with HIV. ‘Universal Child’ – the last single releases, was inspired by Annie’s personal experiences in Africa and all the royalties went to the foundation.
“All children need loving care, safety, security, protection, good nutrition, a decent place to live, access to medical care etc, but millions of children receive none of these things. There is an incomparable disparity between the lives of children growing up in developing countries, and their Western counterparts,” says Lennox
Over the years Annie has lobbied politicians, given performances and interviews, and spoken at international events about HIV. She has used her unique voice to fight stigma and discrimination.
Her latest attempt to raise awareness was to take part in the international UNAIDS and Body Shop campaign ‘Be An Activist’ which is asking people to join the fight against HIV.
Annie was joined by other HIV activist whose stories have been documented and pictures taken by Ian Rankin. “If we no longer care, merely living in our own bubble with no conscience for others, guided by our self interest at heart… then what kind of society are we?” said Annie when she was interviewed.
An exhibition of these iconic pictures will be held at City Hall, London until the 10 November and the images will be used as part of the international campaign in Body Shop windows across the world throughout December. There was also redesign of the iconic Red Ribbon which you can buy from the Body Shop. All proceeds going to Body & Soul.
“Raise your voice today, be an activist, fight for: Zero new infections – Zero discrimination – Zero AIDS related deaths”
With a career spanning four decades, record sales in excess of 80 million and more awards and accolades than any other female artist – eight Brits, Golden Globe an Oscar, and the Red Cross Service to Humanity Award, are just some of them.
You might be forgiven for thinking, that by now this will have all gone to her head! In fact you may be surprised to learn that Lennox comes across as someone who is rather humbled by her success.
This is apparent when she talks about ‘Island’ her new record label. “The team were so enthusiastic, and so excited to be working with me, and I was blown away that they felt like that. It feels very energized, and fresh and new. And that’s a great feeling for me.”
Born on Christmas Day, it seemed inevitable that Ms Lennox would eventually make a Christmas album. Christmas Cornucopia will undoubtedly take the Diva back to a simpler time when she was a seven-year-old girl, attending Miss Auchinachie’s choir in Aberdeen. She was being immersed in the cornucopia of Scottish folk songs, hymns and carols. “Through her I learnt all these beautiful carols and songs.” The album is clearly a homage to her Choir Mistress.
Christmas Cornucopia is out on Island Records: £8.95
If you would like to buy a copy click here
If you would like a chance to win a copy of the album then click here
To learn more about ‘A Christmas Cornucopia’ and Annie Lennox’s humanitarian work go to: www.annielennox.com
To learn more about the SING campaign go to: www.annielennoxsing.com
To Learn more about the UNAIDS and Body Shop ‘Be An Activist’ campaign go to: www.thebodyshop.com
A message from Annie for Posiutive Pulse Readers
“Raise your voice today – be an activist – fight for”
Zero new infections – Protect yourself and your loved ones from infection. Know your status – get tested
Zero discrimination – don’t tolerate STIGMA and DISCRIMINATION towards people living with HIV – Speak up - Take a stand – defend Human Rights
Zero AIDS related deaths – convince people in power to ensure that money is available for treating, caring and supporting those who need it!