Published: 22 June 2001
People living with HIV and AIDS are not only someone else. The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies calculates that over 200,000 Red Cross Red Crescent volunteers between 15 and 49 years of age are infected with HIV. This is based on the fact that our staff and volunteers are subject to the same infection rate as the communities they serve.
A significant part of the Red Cross Red Crescent delegation at the UNGASS on HIV/AIDS is volunteers and staff living with HIV. In their everyday-life they work actively alleviating the suffering, combating the spread of the disease and fighting discrimination and stigmatization in their home countries - Zimbabwe, Uganda, Thailand and the USA.
"The fact that volunteers are ordinary people makes them a powerful network to promote prevention. To prevent further spread you need to talk about very private issues which is often difficult. But when women speak to women, men to men and youngsters to youngsters it makes it easier. Our volunteers are in the communities and that is where the battle against aids has to be fought," said Dr. Astrid N. Heiberg, President of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies.
Throughout the world the Red Cross Red Crescent Movement contain some 100 million volunteers, many of them already actively fighting HIV/AIDS. Last year 53 Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies in Africa pledged to mobilize two million volunteers.
"This is an often unutilized source. The Red Cross Red Crescent has the manpower to dramatically scale up the fight against HIV/AIDS. But we need help from the world to do so," Dr. Heiberg said.
The Red Cross and Red Crescent volunteers and staff living with HIV present at the UNGASS will meet government representatives on 26 June at a side-event to UNGASS. This is done jointly with the GNP+ (Global Network of People living with HIV/AIDS) with whom the International Federation has a very close cooperation.For further information, or to set up interviews, please contact:
Helge Kvam, information officer: +1 212 338 01 61 / mobile (Swiss number): + 41 79 308 98 29