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Peace Corps Recognizes World AIDS Day

World AIDS Day provides an opportunity for Peace Corps volunteers to share the grassroots work that they do year-round in fighting AIDS.  Recognized annually on December 1, World AIDS Day aims to raise awareness, decrease stigma, and honor those who have died of AIDS.  Peace Corps volunteers work with local partners to educate their communities about how to prevent HIV and how to care for those living with HIV.  Volunteers are particularly noted for their contributions in creating community demand for HIV testing and counseling (HTC), building sustainable approaches to community care of orphans and vulnerable children (OVC), scaling-up of prevention of mother-to-child transmission (PMTCT) of HIV programs, and supporting development and leadership in youth education programs on HIV.

The Peace Corps is an implementing agency of the U.S. President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR), which is the U.S. Government initiative to save and improve the lives of those living with and affected by HIV around the world.  Peace Corps Volunteers play a unique role in advancing PEPFAR’s goal of achieving an AIDS-free generation, working directly with the populations most affected by the disease.  You can read more about how the Peace Corps and PEPFAR work together here and about a newly announced PEPFAR/Peace Corps public-private partnership, the Global Health Service Partnership, here.

Approximately 24 percent of Peace Corps volunteers have a primary assignment in the health sector, and all volunteers are encouraged to contribute to HIV/AIDS education initiatives at some point during their 27-month service.  In 2011, the Peace Corps used PEPFAR funds to expand the impact of its global HIV efforts in 47 countries.

We have gathered some pictures that illustrate the many ways in which Peace Corps volunteers are helping to achieve an AIDS-free generation around the world.

Guatemala

In Guatemala, Peace Corps Volunteer Susan Alvarado created handmade butterflies with red ribbons that were worn by the staff at her local health center on World AIDS Day 2011. She used these butterflies as a way to promote HIV awareness and the hope of finding a cure in the near future for HIV.

 

Many volunteers organize art or slogan competitions, allowing students to show their creativity and promote awareness of HIV/AIDS. The winners are often displayed after World AIDS Day to educate people year-round.

 

Ethiopia

Peace Corps volunteer Helen Jones worked with her English class, above, in Ethiopia to prepare posters with the theme of “A World Without HIV/AIDS.” The artwork was posted on the walls of the town hall for World AIDS Day 2011, and afterwards the posters went on display in a popular cafe. Jones also held trainings about how to protect yourself from HIV and prevention of mother-to-child transmission. The training was followed by poetry and dancing, and the winners of a community-wide essay contest regarding HIV prevention were recognized.

 

Morocco

Peace Corps volunteer Maureen Sieh organized an event to mark the observance of World AIDS Day 2011 in Morocco. The event included a candlelight vigil, a skit competition and an informational session on HIV/AIDS. More than 100 people participated in the event, hosted by the community’s youth center. The local women’s association and the community youth center organized art competitions, and one entry is pictured above.

 

Dominica

In the Commonwealth of Dominica, Peace Corps Volunteer Alex Sheldon held a slogan competition for World AIDS Day 2010. The winning slogan was “A Nation that is AIDS Free Begins with You and Me.” This slogan was then printed on t-shirts that were given to students, some of whom show off the shirts above. The incidence of HIV/AIDS in the Caribbean region is second only to sub-Saharan Africa.

 

Burkina Faso

In Burkina Faso, Peace Corps volunteer Scott Worthington (back row, center) commemorated World AIDS Day 2011 by painting a mural at a local youth center. More than 130 community members attended information sessions about HIV/AIDS transmission and condom use. After attending one of the informational sessions, participants added their handprint on the mural as a sign of their pledge to educate and promote healthy lifestyles.

 

Marches and demonstrations are another popular activity for World AIDS Day. Many volunteers work with their communities to organize marches, demonstrations and speakers to make HIV/AIDS awareness and prevention a comfortable topic of conversation.

Togo

In Togo, Peace Corps volunteer Stacie Overton organized an event for World AIDS Day 2011 that included speakers, condom distribution and a candlelight vigil. Several inspiring speakers educated the participants about HIV/AIDS. Representatives from non-governmental organizations, schools, community groups, religious organizations and local government participated.

 

Peru

In Peru, Peace Corps volunteer Libby Salerno accompanied her students in a parade around town, where participants sang and carried signs declaring the importance of condom use and HIV prevention for World AIDS Day 2010. After the parade, the students returned to school for a competition between the high school classes where each grade was responsible for presenting their HIV/AIDS theme in a creative way. Participants spelled out VIH (HIV) and SIDA (AIDS) with their bodies, presented a drama about condom use and choreographed a dance to a song about discrimination.

 

Grenada

In Grenada, Peace Corps Volunteer Nicole Anuszewski (back row, left), along with the help of a local non-governmental organization, organized a march for World AIDS Day 2010. Participants distributed information about HIV and AIDS, a list of places that provide free testing and counseling, and red awareness ribbons.

 

Thailand

Peace Corps volunteer Anita Root (second from left) worked with her community in Thailand to organize a bike ride for World AIDS Day 2011. Participants made signs in English and Thai with the theme “Getting to Zero,” as well as information about HIV/AIDS, and put the signs on their backs or bikes. Root then led the way through four villages, picking up more participants at each stop. By the end of the day, approximately 120 children and adults were riding their bikes in support of World AIDS Day.

 

In addition to events to raise awareness, Peace Corps volunteers work with their communities to educate people about HIV/AIDS including transmission, prevention methods and testing. Many volunteers work with groups to raise nutrition levels, generate income and provide support for people living with HIV/AIDS.

Vanuatu

In Vanuatu, Peace Corps volunteer Billy DeLancey led workshops in several communities about HIV/AIDS. Topics included basic HIV/AIDS information, myths about the transmission of HIV/AIDS, prevention and testing. Approximately 30 leaders of the community, one pictured above, attended this workshop. Other Peace Corps volunteers in Vanuatu were also able to host workshops in their communities with funding from PEPFAR.

 

Another important aspect of World AIDS Day is honoring those who have died as a result of HIV/AIDS. Candlelight vigils give community members a chance to reflect and remember those people who have passed away or are currently living with HIV/AIDS.

Bulgaria

In Bulgaria, Peace Corps Response volunteer Horace Askins helped organize a World Aids Day 2011 observance. Youth volunteers from the Bulgarian Red Cross spent the afternoon passing out brochures, condoms and other informational materials in the city center. The event culminated with the lighting of an AIDS awareness ribbon.

 

Georgia

In Georgia, Peace Corps Volunteer Sean Fredericks worked with a group of 14 high school peer educators to inform young Georgians about HIV/ AIDS. Over the course of a month, the young leaders learned about HIV and AIDS from medical professionals and by using Peace Corps healthy lifestyles resources. The students created their own awareness campaign that launched on World AIDS Day 2011 and included the distribution of more than 500 red ribbons, a rally in the town’s central park and HIV/AIDS awareness presentations. The students used Facebook and the local TV evening news talk show to reach their peers with HIV/AIDS information.

 

On World AIDS Day 2012, Peace Corps volunteers will celebrate, and in many cases culminate, their work in communities around the world. Volunteers and their partners will host informational sessions, march in parades and identify new and creative ways to work with their communities to reduce stigma and spread the facts.  The global fight against AIDS is a shared responsibility and Peace Corps is proud to help PEPFAR achieve its mission of an AIDS-free generation.  For more information about Peace Corps volunteer work on HIV/AIDS, visit http://www.peacecorps.gov/learn/whatvol/hivaids/.

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