AIDS 2016: IFRC calls for more investment in community-based response to HIV

Published: 21 July 2016

Durban / Geneva, 21 July 2016: With the XXI International AIDS Conference (AIDS2016), underway in Durban, South Africa, the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) renews its call for all governments to increase support to community health workers and volunteers involved in the global response to the HIV epidemic.

“The IFRC fully supports the global commitment to end the AIDS epidemic by 2030, but these targets can only be met if we reach out to the most vulnerable and hardest to reach,” said Elhadj As Sy, the Secretary General of the IFRC. “In order to do that, we need an equally global commitment to invest more in community volunteers and health workers who play a key role in bridging the gap between communities and formal health systems.”

Through its network of 17 million volunteers, the IFRC works with local communities to reach, test and treat people affected by HIV in over 90 countries around the world[1]. Between 2009 and 2012, more than 349,000 Red Cross and Red Crescent volunteers were trained and engaged in HIV programme work, supporting 359,000 people living with HIV and reaching more than 68 million people worldwide with a range of services, including education and prevention activities[2]. They also provided supportive outreach to sex workers, prisoners and people who inject drugs, who can find it challenging to access regular services.

Across southern Africa, the region worst affected by HIV and AIDS, National Red Cross Societies have trained at least 8,000 local volunteers on HIV education, and raised awareness about the disease among more than six million people. Many of these volunteers are also responding to the drought that is currently affecting more than 40 million people across the region and that could, if left unchecked, be particularly devastating for those living with HIV and AIDS.

“Southern Africa is currently in the grip of its worst drought in 35 years. In a situation like this, people living with HIV and AIDS are among the most vulnerable. A lack of food can cause people to stop taking their medication, and it can force people to adopt behaviours that can increase their risk of infection, such as transactional sex,” said Mr Sy.

“If global attention does not turn towards this humanitarian crisis we risk losing significant ground in reaching AIDS targets and we could end up taking a number of steps backwards,” said Mr Sy.

In their response to the drought, National Red Cross Societies are targeting people living with HIV, ensuring that they are supported with health education, food, livelihoods support and cash.

The IFRC and National Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies also play an important role in supporting people living with HIV in complex operating environments, such as the Central African Republic. The permanent community-level presence of volunteer enables them to provide sustained accompaniment, treatment and support for people cut-off by violence or insecurity.

Read more about the IFRC’s response to the drought in southern Africa, and its plan to support 1 million vulnerable people to become stronger and more resilient.

Read more about the IFRC’s support to people living with HIV and AIDS in the Central African Republic.

For interviews and further information please contact:

In Durban:

  • Lungile Khambule, communications manager, South African Red Cross Society

Mobile: +27 839 769 742 | email:

 In Nairobi:

  • Katherine Mueller, communications manager, IFRC Africa region

Mobile: +254 731 688 613 | email:

In Geneva

  • Benoit Carpentier, IFRC team leader, public communications

Mobile: +41792132413 E-mail:  Twitter: @Benoist

For updates on Twitter follow @IFRCAfrica and @Federation and use #AIDS2016