World AIDS Day, originally held in 1988, was the first ever global health day to unite people worldwide in the fight against HIV/AIDS. 23 years later, is the international community still paying this cause the attention in requires? 1.8 million people still die of AIDS in developing countries every year. What’s more according to a recent report released by UNAIDS, South Africa still has the highest number of people infected globally.
“HIV/AIDS education and awareness are key to winning the fight,” says Vodacom Change the World volunteer, Yvonne Eskell Klagsbrun who is working as a fundraiser at the Waterberg Welfare Society (WWS). To date she has amassed R1 250 538 for the organisation that provides help and support to those individuals infected and affected by the HIV/AIDS pandemic. Her dream is to raise a further R400 000, which will be used to extend the NGO’s tiny computer room into a venue that could accommodate up to 10 computers and which will provide the orphans and vulnerable children cared for by organisation with a quiet space in which to do their homework. The money will also cover the building costs of enclosing the veranda area of the NGO’s drop in centre so that the children have additional space where they can to learn and play.
Among the various services it provides, the organisation is also involved in several outreach activities in surrounding communities. “HIV/AIDS remains the single most important challenge to the health of those in the Vaalwater and Waterberg regions. There is an on-going need to educate community members and to ensure that all who wish to access treatment and support are able to do so,” explains Eskell Klagsbrun. Through educational programmes, such as the songs and poetry about HIV/AIDS broadcast on the NGO’s Waterberg Waves radio station, it reaches close on 30 000 people while its school programmes reach over 5 000 learners. “As a result of receiving the necessary information, many individuals choose to get tested. We have tested 1 800 individuals under the age of twenty and 2 700 older individuals,” she continues.
“Although the challenge we face is translating the intellectual knowledge into lasting behavioural change, an increase in awareness does result in improved attitudes towards adopting healthy lifestyle choices as well as with regards to transforming the stigma associated with being infected. The increased availability of ARVs over the past few years has also contributed to this and has meant that not only are people’s immune systems strengthened and opportunistic infections lessened, but as their health improves there is a reduction in self-stigma. This has enabled them to become more open to disclosing their status, which greatly assists the education process. Communities are benefitting too, with fewer people being infected and through gaining greater acceptance of HIV as a chronic disease,” shares the volunteer.
While ARVs have given huge hope to those infected and affected by HIV/AIDS, the fight is far from over. At the South African AIDS conference in Durban held earlier this year delegates shared details on the ground-breaking HPTN 052 trial, which for the first time offers real hope in preventing the spread of HIV. The study proved that people living with HIV and undergoing the treatment were less likely to transmit the virus than those not taking the drugs. “I would like to encourage donors to increase their contributions. We cannot stop our investment in this area as new innovations require sustained investment in HIV/AIDS research and development. To meet the new goals of having an HIV free society by 2020 the fight must continue,” concludes Eskell Klagsbrun.
For info about Waterberg Welfare Society,check out their site here.
Wish to make a donation or to find out about Corporate Social Investment opportunities, contact Yvonne on email@example.com.
You can go to www.justgiving.com/waterbergwelfare to pledge your support.
For more information about the Vodacom Change the World initiative check out www.vodacom.com/av_foun_ctw.php or the Facebook page www.facebook.com/vodacomchangetheworld.