On 1 December, 2010, like every year, thousands of Red Cross Red Crescent volunteers throughout Europe gathered in streets, shopping centres, cinemas, schools, bar and clubs to raise awareness of HIV/AIDS, fight stigma, and promote safer behaviour in their communities. All of them are the same volunteers that the world celebrates on the International Volunteer Day, on 5 December.
This year in particular, on the threshold of 2011 International Year of Volunteering, 5 December acquires special importance for the International Red Cross Red Crescent Movement, because not only can it help to increase public awareness of the contribution that its 20 million active volunteers offer to their communities, but it also reminds us that, in order to do more, do better and reach further, more volunteers are needed worldwide.
In their day-by-day activities, Red Cross and Red Crescent volunteers contribute to ending poverty and fighting against diseases, extending people’s access to services and promoting social inclusion. But not only that: the thousands of volunteers who filled the streets between World AIDS Day and the International Volunteer Day reminded the world that they are the best ones who, through their passion, dedication and spirit, can inspire others to get involved.
In the week between 29 November and 5 December, in the framework of the national Red Cross campaign “Impara l’ABC (learn ABC): Abstinence, Be faithful, Condom”, some 21.000 Italian Red Cross youth volunteers were involved in more than 100 STI/HIV/AIDS awareness-raising initiatives throughout the country. Such massive presence of young volunteers on the territory, possible also thanks to the sponsorship of the Italian Ministry of Youth, gave proof of the huge success of the peer education-based HIV/AIDS and STIs prevention programme which the Italian Red Cross youth have been running since 2006.
In Tajikistan, from 29 November to 1 December, the Red Crescent held different activities in Kulyab city, Khujand city, and the capital Dushanbe, where volunteers distributed information materials on HIV/AIDS and condoms, and conducted mini-quizzes among target groups (general labourers and migrants).
On 1 December, some 20 Tajik Red Crescent volunteers made a performance devoted to World AIDS Day under the slogan “Together we combat HIV” in the State Pedagogical University, which the saw the participation of over 1000 people. The scenario included different plays and dances on topics such as the ways of transmission and prevention, discrimination of HIV patients, and drug addiction.
In Kyrgyzstan, where in the last eight years more than 3,000 Red Crescent volunteers have received peer-to-peer training on HIV/AIDS prevention, on 1st December the volunteers of the National Society organized a flash mob, with the aim of focusing people’s attention on the red ribbon symbol and on the issues of stigma and discrimination towards people living with or affected by HIV/AIDS. Balloons with messages from people living with HIV were launched from six different places around the city of Bishkek.
For many years now, the Armenian Red Cross Society has been celebrating World AIDS Day with different large scale events through its Youth Volunteers, in the framework of HIV prevention programs. This year, as part of the HIV prevention program "Time for choice”, funded by the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tubercolosis and Malaria, the Armenian Red Cross volunteers organized open lessons in 4 different high schools of Yerevan, the capital of Armenia, aimed at informing schoolchildren about HIV/AIDS, transmission and prevention ways.
As a sum-up for the WAD events, a concert named “Youth against AIDS”, with the participation of “The Beautified Project”, an Armenian rock band, was held in one of the clubs of the capital.