Man of passion

By Jane Sutton-Redner

Stephen Lewis at a World Vision conference in Bucharest, Romania, in 2004. (Rienk Van Velzen/WV)

One of the people I have most enjoyed interviewing for this magazine is Stephen Lewis, the former (and first) UN special envoy for HIV/AIDS in Africa, in 2002. He was well-spoken, as you’d expect of a former Canadian politician, but he did not communicate in impersonal sound-bites. His heart was clearly engaged in his work; his passion came through clearly over the phone as we talked.

Recently I was happy to hear him again on World Vision’s excellent radio program, World Vision Report. Now the co-director of AIDS-Free World, an international advocacy organization, Lewis continues to use his influential voice on behalf of a group greatly affected by AIDS—women. A major cause of the global AIDS pandemic, Lewis argues, is gender inequality, “the greatest scar on the face of the planet.” In many developing-world societies, women not only lack rights, but they are also victims of sexual violence. They cannot stop the spread of AIDS or effectively network to change their culture.

Listen to Lewis, and you can tell how deeply he feels these injustices. For example, on the topic of rape in Congo, he says, “I’m 71 years old … I never thought I’d reach the age where I would see such wanton malice visited on women with such indiscriminate brutality as to sear the soul.”

Wow. You get the sense that this man will use his last ounce of energy for this cause. That’s exactly the kind of person we need in the fight against AIDS.

After you listen to Lewis’ great interview on World Vision Report, stick around on the site and explore the fascinating stories this award-winning team produces every week.

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