World AIDS Day: HIV still with us, not defeated yet
28 November 2008
HIV is still a major threat to public health throughout the world despite progress made over the years in some countries, warns the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) on the occasion of World AIDS Day 2008.
“If there is something more deadly than HIV, it is complacency about HIV,” says Dr Mukesh Kapila, the IFRC’s Special Representative for HIV.
“Even if infection rates are stabilizing in parts of sub-Saharan Africa, HIV is still growing elsewhere with many people unaware of the dangers, especially in Eastern Europe and in parts of Asia. Our cost effective approach – which bypasses bureaucratic institutional structures to reach the community level directly – very much focuses on supporting the most vulnerable groups including women and children orphaned by AIDS,” he adds.
The IFRC is taking action to support people living with HIV affected by food insecurity, disasters and health crises, as they are usually the hardest hit because of the disruptions they experience.
“In South Africa, Red Cross volunteers involved in our home-based care programmes are doing wonderful work within communities, bringing essential support to people living with HIV on antiretroviral treatment (ART) and their families, especially those affected by food shortages and dealing with the double blow of tuberculosis” explains Françoise Le Goff, head of IFRC’s southern Africa zone.
“Volunteers provide basic food assistance – taking some porridge to their clients or urging them to maintain a healthy diet. Even in South Africa, many people go without food on a regular basis, and this can be catastrophic for someone taking ART.”
South Africa is one of many examples of how the Red Cross Red Crescent is scaling up in HIV-related activities in Africa and throughout the world, partnering with other organizations including UNAIDS.
“The IFRC is on track to keep its commitment to double the amount of HIV activities. It is clear from results over the past two years that we are keeping the promise,” says Bernard Gardiner, head of the IFRC’s HIV Global Programme in Geneva. “Between January 2005 and June 2008, Red Cross Red Crescent societies in Africa reached 32 million beneficiaries thanks to 67,000 volunteers providing 38 million hours of their time and skills,” he adds.
The IFRC is also strengthening its HIV programmes in other parts of the world, especially in Eastern Europe, Asia and the Americas, where a lot still needs to be done to have vulnerable groups made aware of the threat of HIV. “The persistence of stigma and discrimination against people living with HIV is unacceptable to any community rising to the challenge of HIV,” concludes Gardiner.