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Getting to zero: How AVERT’s partners are marking World AIDS Day 2013

Friday, 29 November, 2013


Sunday 1st of December marks World AIDS Day; a day which is commemorated around the world to raise awareness of HIV, to show solidarity with people living with the virus, and to remember those who have died of AIDS. This is a very important time of year for both AVERT and our partners in sub-Saharan Africa, Umunthu Foundation and Sisonke, who take the opportunity to conduct crucial community outreach and awareness-raising work.

Umunthu Foundation (Malawi)

Our partner organisation in Malawi, Umunthu Foundation, works in the Bangwe and Limbe townships of Blantyre. This World AIDS Day, Umunthu is addressing the challenges associated with HIV and AIDS and reflecting on those affected and infected. They have two major activities taking place.

Firstly, they will be conducting targeted voluntary counselling and testing to make services more available and accessible. Umunthu will set up temporary services within the Blantyre Teacher Training College to offer students and community members access to HIV counselling and testing. As the college is located four kilometres from Umunthu’s nearest static services, Student Union leaders requested that Umunthu bring the services to campus to provide the opportunity to access them within easy reach and encourage more people to test.

Secondly, Umunthu will conduct community awareness-raising on the importance of testing for HIV by providing people with information and breaking down myths. Umunthu will focus the awareness campaign on a neighbouring village located near to their offices. Community members and traditional leaders will be mobilised to attend a public gathering to sensitise those present on the importance of getting tested for HIV as an entry point to accessing antiretroviral therapy (ART) and to behaviour change. Youth members of Umunthu’s Post Test Club will also conduct a door-to-door awareness campaign to speak to households in neighbouring villages about the importance of HIV testing, treatment adherence and reducing discrimination of people living with HIV.

Umunthu Foundation is also very involved in the 16 Days of Activism Against Gender Violence campaign that runs from 25 November and overlaps with World AIDS Day. They are a key member of the Gender Coordination Network and were present at the national launch in Malawi, among many other activities during the period.

Sisonke (South Africa)

Our partner organisation in South Africa, the Department of Social Responsibility (DSR) of the Diocese of Grahamstown, coordinates the Sisonke project. Sisonke works to mobilise and empower elderly caregivers, or Gogos (‘grannies’ in isiXhosa), who have been affected by HIV and AIDS, to take back their role in society and build a strong response to the epidemic in their communities.

World AIDS Day and the 16 Days of Activism Against Gender Violence campaign are commemorated in tandem by the DSR, as the two issues are inextricably linked in the local context. The ethos of the DSR is that their activities are initiated and led by communities themselves. Communities are given mentoring and training to build their capacity to respond to the challenges posed by the HIV epidemic and take the lead on the HIV response at local level. World AIDS Day and the 16 Days of Activism Against Gender Violence campaign activities are led by community members.

In the run-up to World AIDS Day, a group of Gogos have been busy making beaded AIDS awareness ribbons for AVERT (see image above). A few months ago the Gogos participated in a training to learn how to make products from knitted plastic bags and beadwork. The crafts, such as jewellery, place mats, bags, keyrings, are beautifully made by hand. This offers the elderly women an additional way of making a small income to support their activities and in turn to support their families.  The beaded ribbons will be available to buy for a small donation at our World AIDS Day event on Sunday 1st December.

To find our more about what we are doing here at AVERT for World AIDS Day, follow this link >>