‘Volunteers key to reach HIV treatment to poor communities’
12 July 2004
Bangkok: Volunteers play a critical role in reaching out to grassroots communities to provide millions of poor people with antiretroviral treatment (ART) for HIV/AIDS, said the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) on the eve of the 15th International AIDS Conference being held in Bangkok this week.
Antiretroviral therapy has altered the nature of HIV disease, transforming an almost uniformly fatal illness into a chronic but apparently stable condition, according to the University of California San Francisco’s Center for HIV Information.
One of the conference’s main task is to help the World Health Organization (WHO) reach the objectives of its "3 by 5 Initiatives" -- to provide ART to three million people living with HIV/AIDS in developing countries by the end of 2005. Currently, there are over six million people in poor countries living with HIV/AIDS, but only 400,000 have access to retroviral drugs.
"Our unique contribution to ‘3 by 5’ is community mobilization and our unparalleled access to households," said IFRC VicePresident Dr Mamdouh Gabr. "Our volunteer base is increasingly regarded as an essential component of the broad public health system that increases awareness, enables people to come forward for testing and receive ongoing care."
The conference with the theme "Access for All" aims to advance the global response for HIV/AIDS. The theme urges all sectors of society to have access to "all resources developed after 20 years of living with HIV/AIDS". For those infected with the virus, it means access to "education, information and medication" and calls on people who have "access to policies" to lend support and care.
The conference, being attended by 17,000 delegates from 160 countries, is organized by the International AIDS Society (IAS) and the Thai Ministry of Public Health, with the UNAIDS and international community networks, namely, the International Community of Women Living with HIV/AIDS, International Council of AIDS Service Organizations, the Global Network of People Living with HIV/AIDS, and TNCA, a conglomerate of AIDS organizations in Thailand.
Photo shows United Nations Volunteers' (UNV) programme organizing HIV/AIDS awareness campaign in Botswana.