World AIDS Day provides an opportunity for Peace Corps volunteers to share the grassroots work that they do year-round in fighting AIDS. Recognized annually on December 1, World AIDS Day aims to raise awareness, decrease stigma, and honor those who have died of AIDS. Peace Corps volunteers work with local partners to educate their communities about how to prevent HIV and how to care for those living with HIV. Volunteers are particularly noted for their contributions in creating community demand for HIV testing and counseling (HTC), building sustainable approaches to community care of orphans and vulnerable children (OVC), scaling-up of prevention of mother-to-child transmission (PMTCT) of HIV programs, and supporting development and leadership in youth education programs on HIV.
The Peace Corps is an implementing agency of the U.S. President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR), which is the U.S. Government initiative to save and improve the lives of those living with and affected by HIV around the world. Peace Corps Volunteers play a unique role in advancing PEPFAR’s goal of achieving an AIDS-free generation, working directly with the populations most affected by the disease. You can read more about how the Peace Corps and PEPFAR work together here and about a newly announced PEPFAR/Peace Corps public-private partnership, the Global Health Service Partnership, here.
Approximately 24 percent of Peace Corps volunteers have a primary assignment in the health sector, and all volunteers are encouraged to contribute to HIV/AIDS education initiatives at some point during their 27-month service. In 2011, the Peace Corps used PEPFAR funds to expand the impact of its global HIV efforts in 47 countries.
We have gathered some pictures that illustrate the many ways in which Peace Corps volunteers are helping to achieve an AIDS-free generation around the world.
Many volunteers organize art or slogan competitions, allowing students to show their creativity and promote awareness of HIV/AIDS. The winners are often displayed after World AIDS Day to educate people year-round.
Peace Corps volunteer Helen Jones worked with her English class, above, in Ethiopia to prepare posters with the theme of "A World Without HIV/AIDS." The artwork was posted on the walls of the town hall for World AIDS Day 2011, and afterwards the posters went on display in a popular cafe. Jones also held trainings about how to protect yourself from HIV and prevention of mother-to-child transmission. The training was followed by poetry and dancing, and the winners of a community-wide essay contest regarding HIV prevention were recognized.
Peace Corps volunteer Maureen Sieh organized an event to mark the observance of World AIDS Day 2011 in Morocco. The event included a candlelight vigil, a skit competition and an informational session on HIV/AIDS. More than 100 people participated in the event, hosted by the community’s youth center. The local women's association and the community youth center organized art competitions, and one entry is pictured above.
Marches and demonstrations are another popular activity for World AIDS Day. Many volunteers work with their communities to organize marches, demonstrations and speakers to make HIV/AIDS awareness and prevention a comfortable topic of conversation.
In addition to events to raise awareness, Peace Corps volunteers work with their communities to educate people about HIV/AIDS including transmission, prevention methods and testing. Many volunteers work with groups to raise nutrition levels, generate income and provide support for people living with HIV/AIDS.
Another important aspect of World AIDS Day is honoring those who have died as a result of HIV/AIDS. Candlelight vigils give community members a chance to reflect and remember those people who have passed away or are currently living with HIV/AIDS.
On World AIDS Day 2012, Peace Corps volunteers will celebrate, and in many cases culminate, their work in communities around the world. Volunteers and their partners will host informational sessions, march in parades and identify new and creative ways to work with their communities to reduce stigma and spread the facts. The global fight against AIDS is a shared responsibility and Peace Corps is proud to help PEPFAR achieve its mission of an AIDS-free generation. For more information about Peace Corps volunteer work on HIV/AIDS, visit https://www.peacecorps.gov/educators/resources/global-issues-hivaids/.