Global AIDS Coordinator to Address Peace Corps

March 22, 2005

WASHINGTON, D.C. March 22, 2005 – Whether reinvigorating a youth club in Botswana or helping to open counseling and testing centers in Kenya, the President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief has allowed Peace Corps volunteers to assist even more people across the globe. On March 24, the Global AIDS Coordinator Ambassador Randall L. Tobias—who spearheads the President's Emergency Plan—will discuss the impact the Peace Corps and other agencies have had around the world in combating HIV/AIDS.

Ambassador Tobias oversees the United States' commitment and operations to educate people and prevent HIV/AIDS infection and death throughout the world. The World Health Organization estimates that more than 40 million people are currently living with HIV/AIDS, and the number of new global infections is expected to reach 5.8 million people this year.

"The United States has decisively turned the corner, from the eras of apathy and empathy to a new era of compassionate action," Ambassador Tobias said during his recent speech at the International AIDS Conference. "We have willingly assumed the leadership role in this fight."

HIV/AIDS education and health initiatives are a priority for the Peace Corps with more than 3,100 volunteers working on health and HIV/AIDS projects. Worldwide, volunteers have worked with more than 5,900 HIV/AIDS prevention organizations, reaching nearly 815,000 beneficiaries. Various nongovernmental organization officials have stated that they want to work with Peace Corps volunteers because they live and work in their communities, and thus, volunteers can have a profound impact on educating people and encouraging them to get tested or seek counseling.

The President's Emergency Plan operates in over 100 countries with a special focus on 15 nations that represent over half of the world's infections. Currently, the Peace Corps has programs in 10 of the 15 focus countries, including Botswana, Zambia, Namibia, South Africa, Mozambique, Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda, Haiti, and Guyana. In 2004, the President's Emergency Plan allocated $1.1 million to specific Peace Corps HIV/AIDS programs in six of the hardest hit African nations. So far this year the Peace Corps has received an additional $4.1 million from the President's Emergency Plan.

"The Peace Corps has made a resolute commitment to fight the spread of this dire disease. As we expand our projects in concert and coordination with local governments, we are training a multitude of new volunteers in HIV/AIDS health and prevention to ensure the sustainability of our programs," said Peace Corps Director Gaddi H. Vasquez of the Peace Corps' vital link in stemming the tide of AIDS infection.

Since 1961, more than 178,000 volunteers have served in the Peace Corps, working in such diverse fields as education, health, HIV/AIDS education and prevention, information technology, business development, the environment, and agriculture. Peace Corps volunteers must be U.S. citizens and at least 18 years of age. Peace Corps service is a 27-month commitment.

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