Oscar-nominee Naomi Watts on Monday joined the UN fight against AIDS, saying she could no longer stand by and watch people die.
Watts, 37, who starred in "King Kong" and "Muholland Drive," was appointed special representative for UNAIDS, the umbrella UN coordinating body for HIV-AIDS, which recently named conductor and cellist Mstislav Rostropovich as its goodwill ambassador. Born in Britain and raised in Australia, Watts just returned from five days in Zambia, where only one in five people stricken with the disease receive treatment.
"Given these stark realities, I could no longer stand on the sidelines," Watts told a news conference at UN headquarters in New York. Asked about the Bush administration's emphasis on abstinence rather than contraceptives in foreign aid, she said, "While it (abstinence) is probably the safest way to avoid it, it is impossible for certain people to practice it." "So I am a big believer in the use of contraception," Watts said. About 40 million people worldwide are infected with HIV, the virus that causes AIDS, and some 25 million people have died from the pandemic, most of them in Africa.
Watts was highlighting the new UNAIDS campaign called "4 for Everyone" - referring to prevention, treatment, care and support. Watts, whose screen credits also include "The Ring" and "21 Grams," is the latest in a string of celebrities to sign up for UN duties.
Michael Douglas promotes arms control as a peace messenger for UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan, Australian Nicole Kidman in January became a goodwill ambassador for the United Nations Development Fund for Women; Angelina Jolie represents the UN High Commissioner for Refugees; Danny Glover travels for the UN Development Program and tennis star Roger Federer volunteers on behalf of the UN Children's Agency.
The concept was first popularized by entertainer Danny Kaye, who from 1954 until his death in 1987 clocked thousands of miles for UNICEF, the UN Children's Fund, and was selected to accept the agency's Nobel Peace Prize in 1965.