Lotti Latrous, a Swiss woman who cares for Aids patients in Ivory Coast, has been voted “Swiss of the Year.”
Latrous, who received the prize at SwissAward ceremony at the St Jakobshalle in Basel on Saturday, is the first woman to receive the accolade in its three-year history.
The 51-year-old was chosen by television viewers from among 18 candidates from the world of politics, sport and entertainment.
The wife of a Nestlé manager, Latrous moved to Ivory Coast in 1994. Shocked by the extent of the Aids epidemic in the country – an estimated 12 per cent of the population are HIV positive – Latrous founded an Aids hospice with the help of a local doctor in 1999.
“My aim is to give Aids victims love before they die and give them the possibility to die with dignity,” said Latrous in a previous interview with swissinfo.
She succeeds last year’s winner and this year’s Sportsman of the Year, Roger Federer.
In 2003, the prize went to paediatrician Beat Richner, who uses his musical talents to raise funds for children’s hospitals in Cambodia.
Apart from the overall “Swiss of the Year” award, there were six other categories chosen by a jury.
In the showbusiness category the award went to singer Mia Aegerter, while the culture award went to actor Bruno Ganz, who recently stirred controversy by taking on the role of Hitler in a German film.
Other recipients were Aids specialist Ruedi Lüthy, who works with clinics in Zimbabwe (society), Olympic fencing champion Marcel Fischer (sport) and Swiss academic and United Nations Special Rapporteur on the Right to Food Jean Ziegler (politics).
Beatrice Weder di Mauro, who works as an advisor to the German government, received the economics award.
The awards are intended to honour people who have shown courage, innovation, creativity or originality.
A lottery also took place during the evening, with SFr2 million ($1.7 million) going to the victims of the tidal waves in Asia.
swissinfo with agencies
Lotti Latrous was born in 1953 in Dielsdorf, Switzerland.
At the age of 16 she went to Geneva as an au pair to learn French and met her husband, Aziz Latrous.
Latrous has spent most of her married life in Africa.
For more than six years, she has been helping Aids patients in the slums of Abidjan.
In 2002 she won the Adèle Duttweiler prize for her work.
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