When I was real young, like 11, a close family friend died of AIDS. I was so young I didn’t understand what was happening. I just knew she’d eaten off our plates and used our forks and I was so afraid. This is the first time I’ve really talked openly about my personal experience with HIV/AIDS. I’ve just been so inspired by everyone I’ve met and I hope that I can in turn inspire others to be responsible and fight this deadly epidemic.

In Khayelitsha, on my first day in Africa, a crowd of teens swarmed around me, call me the Ambassador, which was intimidating. I sat cross-legged front and center watching them react to tough topics like HIV, stigma, peer pressure, condoms and young boys spreading the disease through multiple partners. I was so impressed. They were so focused and so knowledgeable. I feel like American kids wouldn’t be mature enough to sit through a film like that. Georgia Arnold, from Staying Alive, told me there are 280,000 children in South Africa under the age of 15 living with HIV. Knowledge is power to them.

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