Thursday, November 29, 2007

World AIDS Day: Communities must “take charge of their own destinies”, says the International Federation

Press Release
28 November 2007

Communities must be at the forefront of the fight against HIV and tackling gender inequalities must be at the centre of our efforts, says the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies on World AIDS Day.

“The theme for World AIDS Day 2007 is ’leadership’. This is not just for governments, health professionals, and organizations involved in HIV work. There is no substitute for communities taking charge of their own destinies,” says Mukesh Kapila, the International Federation’s Special Representative for HIV.

“We will not reduce the dreadful HIV statistics unless gender inequalities are tackled, and we can convince people – especially men - to change attitudes. The stark reality is that tens of millions of women all over the world continue to be prevented from managing their own sexuality, and daily face coercion, abuse, and violence,” he adds.

Empowering communities is at the centre of the International Federation’s action on HIV. Trained Red Cross and Red Crescent volunteers involved in home-based care programmes have a unique role of visiting clients, supporting their adherence to treatment, motivating safe behaviour, giving advice on nutrition, health and hygiene, bringing psychosocial support to clients and to their families, and sending clients to clinics when their health deteriorates.

“Bearing in mind the lack of heath care personnel in many low income-countries, Red Cross or Red Crescent volunteers are often the only ones who can provide practical support and skill development in their communities,” says Bernard Gardiner, manager of the International Federation’s global HIV programme. ”Because they often live in the same area where they work, our volunteers are also best placed to ’go the extra mile’, which also means trying to overcome cultural challenges, especially when it comes to relaying prevention messages,” he adds.

Exactly a year ago, the International Federation launched its new Global Alliance on HIV, with a commitment to double programming by 2010. Some 50 National Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies are now actively scaling-up their efforts to “do more and to do better” on HIV through community outreach by members and volunteers living among and targeting the most vulnerable groups.

This includes the US$ 300 million programme for ten countries in southern Africa to reach 50 million people with messages for prevention and against stigma and discrimination. It will provide services for at least 250,000 people living with HIV and 460,000 children who have been orphaned or made vulnerable by HIV. Similar doubling of the reach of Red Cross Red Crescent HIV programmes is now underway in other regions of Africa and in Asia, Pacific, Latin America and the Caribbean.

For further information, or to set up interviews, please contact: Jean-Luc Martinage, Information Officer, Geneva, Tel: +41 22 730 42 96/+41 79 217 33 86Media Service duty phone: Tel: +41 79 416 38 81