10 May 2002
by Rita Plotnikova
Red Crescent volunteers collecting signatures for the anti-HIV/AIDS stigma campaign in the Tajik capital Dushanbe to commemorate World AIDS Day in 2002. (From: IFRC)Dushanbe, Tajikistan:
This was something that the Red Crescent Society of Tajikistan (RCST) had not done before - and something people in towns and villages in southern Tajikistan not experienced before - Red Crescent staff and volunteers taking to the road to raise awareness of HIV/AIDS and the stigma associated with it.
A convoy of three cars with three staff and five volunteers had set out from the capital, Dushanbe, just days before World Red Cross Red Crescent Day.
The convoy's departure on Saturday May 4 at 10 a.m. was followed by celebrations in the city's Central Park. Apart form speeches and entertainment for the public, Red Crescent volunteers were collecting signatures of those present for the global Red Cross Red Crescent campaign against stigma and discrimination against people with HIV/AIDS.
According to the Tajik National AIDS Centre, the number of the registered HIV-positive in Tajikistan today is 46, but in reality, the figure is more in the hundreds.
"Some people in Tajikistan have never heard of AIDS," says Bakhodur Akhmedov, a Red Crescent volunteer. "But AIDS is here and we know how fast it can spread. To avoid a national tragedy, we started our educational campaign in November last year, and now we are pushing people to join the Red Cross Red Crescent global campaign to fight stigma and discrimination against individuals living with this infection," he adds.
After a four day trip, the Red Crescent convoy of staff and volunteers returned to Dushanbe. In the places they stopped, they added to events organized by the local Red Crescent branches. Although aware of the international Red Cross Red Crescent humanitarian programmes carried out in Tajikistan since 1992, Tajik people got a much better idea of their own national Red Crescent society during the past week and learnt more about the principles that guide the whole Movement. Quizzes and educational plays on health issues, distribution of leaflets, including those promoting volunteering, were also part of the programmes.
"I am very much inspired after this trip," said Murod Soliev, a 20-year-old Red Crescent volunteer, upon his return to Dushanbe. "All our team was happy to see that people welcomed us and our presentations were useful. This means that we have many supporters and some of them are waiting to learn how to join us."
For Dilrabo Khamidova, youth coordinator for the Tajik Red Crescent, it had been an fruitful opportunity to get some important health messages across as well.
For us this convoy was a culmination of our recent activities - we got a chance to deliver our messages on HIV/AIDS, drugs abuse and tuberculosis to a much wider audience," she says. Dilrabo felt happy for her young volunteers who had been working hard during the past year promoting both the programmes and ideals of the Red Crescent that included anti-HIV/AIDS projects, a "Support the children" campaign, conducting a survey on reasons for volunteering in Tajikistan and an anti-TB education programme among schoolchildren. The week was also an opportunity to celebrate another important occasion.
"For us the whole week was only the beginning of the celebrations of the 75th Anniversary of the Red Crescent Society of Tajikistan that we marked in December," says Davron Muhamadiev, vice president of the Tajik Red Crescent. "There will be a series of promotional events that we hope will bring the Red Crescent closer to people. We aim to attract more volunteers who will help us to develop our humanitarian activities in the future," he added.
With the opening of mountain passes later in May to Khadjent in the north of the country, a similar Red Crescent convoy will be organized in northern Tajikistan, as well as to Karategin valley, which had seen experienced much conflict during the recent civil war.