06/04/2008 AT 10:50 AM EDT
Ashley Judd confronted an overwhelming topic in remarks she delivered Tuesday at the United Nations headquarters in New York City: the approximately 2.5 million people worldwide – mostly women and children – believed to be victims of the $32 billion annual industry of human trafficking
"I know that the unheard are helped when they are heard. I know that compassionate listening helps me, and my goal was to help the U.N. help them," the actress, 40, said at a news conference on the day in which the General Assembly met for a "thematic debate" on the problem, the Associated Press reports.
Judd explained that she actually "stumbled upon" the crisis while on a 12-nation tour to promote public health. En route, she saw brothels, slums, hospices and other medical facilities.
Judd, a global ambassador for YouthAIDS, an education and prevention program of the organization Population Services International, also wishes to focus attention on HIV/AIDS prevention to young adults around the world.
"I do think that all of the issues are fundamentally connected. They all spring out of gender inequality," she said.
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