06/04/2008 at 09:00 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.
Like this story? Click on the Yahoo Buzz! button below to Buzz it up!