Peace Corps Marks World AIDS Day

Volunteers Committed to HIV/AIDS Prevention and Education Worldwide

WASHINGTON, D.C., December 1, 2004 – Thousands of Peace Corps volunteers and staff around the globe will participate in World AIDS Day by hosting educational activities and by continuing the endeavors that have made a real difference in their communities.

In Haiti, Peace Corps volunteers will mark World AIDS Day by meeting with Secretary of State Colin Powell to discuss their triumphs against the disease. In Madagascar, Monique Bona, a health volunteer, will host AIDS education workshops for those most vulnerable to the disease. In Belize, volunteers will continue their work addressing the need for women’s empowerment and behavior modification. And in Paraguay, Brooke Franke will continue to work with the HIV positive orphans in her community.

On Wednesday, in Washington, D.C., staff and returned volunteers will kickoff a week of events that includes guest speakers, a panel discussion of returned volunteers who worked in HIV/AIDS education and prevention, and a forum – complete with displays and photographs – that highlights the work of Peace Corps volunteers in the fight against the disease.

This year’s global theme is “Women, Girls, HIV and AIDS,” which is meant to bring attention to the significant increase in HIV among women. Women now make up half of all people living with HIV worldwide, and 60 percent of adults living with HIV in sub-Saharan Africa are women. The ratio of new infections among women compared to men is even higher within the 15–24 age group worldwide. According to UNAIDS, over 39 million people worldwide are living with HIV/AIDS and approximately 4.9 million new people were infected this year alone.

Since the 1980s, the Peace Corps has responded to the need for assistance in stemming the tide of the HIV/AIDS pandemic. Today, volunteers train youth as peer educators, collaborate with community, religious leaders, and nongovernmental organizations to develop appropriate education strategies, provide support to children orphaned by HIV/AIDS, and develop programs that provide support to families and communities affected by the disease. Since volunteers have been integrated into their communities, they play an integral role in combating HIV/AIDS through outreach education and by assisting with prevention initiatives.

Currently, over 2,800 Peace Corps volunteers in 26 posts in Africa, 24 posts in the Inter-America and the Pacific region and 16 posts in the Europe, Mediterranean and Asia region are working on HIV/AIDS activities.

The Peace Corps also works in 10 of the 15 focus countries in President George W. Bush’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief; all 10 posts submitted proposals to the Office of the Global AIDS Coordinator for funds to expand their fight against HIV/AIDS in Fiscal Year 2005.

The Peace Corps is committed to addressing the HIV/AIDS epidemic through the following initiatives:

  • Intensive Volunteer Training
    All Peace Corps posts in Africa and nearly half the posts in Inter-America, the Pacific, Europe, the Middle East, and Asia carry out HIV/AIDS activities. In 2003, 1,494 Peace Corps volunteers conducted 43 health and HIV/AIDS projects worldwide.

  • Expansion of HIV/AIDS Projects in Endemic Areas
    In total, Peace Corps volunteers reach nearly half a million beneficiaries through their HIV/AIDS efforts, and this trend is expected to dramatically increase. In Southern and Eastern Africa, the regions of the continent most severely affected by the pandemic disease, the Peace Corps will continue to expend HIV/AIDS specific projects in several countries. Two Peace Corps posts, Botswana and Swaziland, have projects and volunteers devoted exclusively to HIV/AIDS prevention and education activities.

  • Intensified Information ShaHIV/AIDS prevention and education activities.

  • Intensified Information Sharing, Monitoring, and Evaluation
    Through the use of information technology and other strategies, the Peace Corps is enhancing the capability of volunteers and their communities to obtain and exchange information about the best practices and latest innovations in public education, behavior change, and delivery of services to people living with HIV/AIDS.

  • Deployment of New Crisis Corps Volunteers
    The Peace Corps Crisis Corps program, in which former Peace Corps volunteers return to service for a limited period, is committing volunteers to the fight against the epidemic. They will lend expertise to nongovernmental organizations and government agencies worldwide. Currently, the Crisis Corps program has 15 volunteers working in HIV/AIDS projects in Guinea, Jamaica, Malawi, Namibia and Zambia.

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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