Red Cross Red Crescent taking up the challenge of getting to zero

Published: 1 December 2011 12:20 CET

Today is World AIDS Day. A day when individuals, civil society, governments and organisations such as the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) aim to do more, do better and reach further, for the eventual eradication of HIV and AIDS.

As the 31st International Conference closes today, the IFRC is reiterating the need to remain committed to funding global HIV programmes. President of the IFRC, Tadateru Konoé, said: "We must work to ensure the gains of past decades are sustained, and intensify future efforts to stop the pandemic."

 The IFRC took the challenges of HIV and AIDS seriously from the outset. Ever since, the organization and its member national Red Cross Red Crescent societies have worked hard to design high-impact HIV interventions, and expand comprehensive, community-based programmes in partnership with governments. These efforts will continue.

The French Red Cross has pioneered the establishment of outpatient  clinics in west and central Africa since the end of 90s, during a time where HIV testing and treatment was not available. The number of clinics and patients have grown significantly over the years, with an estimated 22,105 patients in 2011, 14,740 of whom are currently under anti-retroviral treatment.

The Thailand Red Cross Society continues to spearhead initiatives with some of the most vulnerable groups in society, including men who have sex with men. The National Society runs several anonymous clinics and mobile health clinics, encourages testing for HIV, and is running a social media campaign called “Adam’s Love”, which has been built around a website that provides reliable HIV-related information, expert advice and online counselling for men in Thailand and around the world.

The RCRC+ HIV Positive – a network of people living with HIV and AIDS within the Movement – has also been consistently active in advocating for the elimination of stigma and discrimination, and giving a voice to the most marginalized. “Governments and National Societies must ensure that HIV programmes target the most at-risk populations, and those most in need,” said Jose Di Bello, from Argentine Red Cross and representative of the network.

The Italian Red Cross has also been active in implementing harm reduction programmes for injecting drug users since 1976, through the Villa Maraini Therapeutic Community. Over the years, Villa Maraini has radically increased its activities and services, becoming a leading organization providing assistance to drug users and people living with HIV, as well as in the fight against discrimination and stigmatisation. Dr. Barra, founder of Villa Maraini, said there was still more to be done. “We need public discussion. We need to respect this population of drug users and put them at the heart of our programmes,” he said.

These are just a few of the examples of the successful work being done within the International Red Cross Red Crescent Movement to tackle the HIV pandemic, as part of global efforts to achieve zero new HIV infections, zero discrimination, and zero AIDS-related deaths.

World AIDS Day 2011.