Peace Corps Unveils New Initiative to Fight HIV/AIDS in Africa; Director Mark Schneider Announces Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation Grant

WASHINGTON, D.C., June 27, 2000—Peace Corps Director Mark Schneider today announced a new initiative to fight HIV/AIDS in Africa. Sandra Thurman, director of the Office of National AIDS Policy at the White House, spoke in support of the initiative.

"The HIV/AIDS crisis is not only undermining social and economic development in Africa. It is also, in my view, the dominant humanitarian challenge confronting the world today," said Schneider. "However, it is not a situation without hope. By working collaboratively with communities and governments, Peace Corps volunteers can make a tremendous contribution to preventing the spread of this disease."

For the first time ever, all 2,400 Peace Corps volunteers serving in 25 countries in Africa will be trained as educators of HIV/AIDS prevention and care. By the end of the year 2000, the number of volunteers engaged in HIV/AIDS work is expected to increase six-fold.

Schneider also announced a grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to bolster the Peace Corps\' HIV/AIDS efforts. The $500,000 gift will enable Peace Corps volunteers to prepare better educational materials, conduct extensive training, and promote broad-based community outreach efforts. "I thank the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation for their significant contribution to our fight against this terrible disease. This grant will allow Peace Corps volunteers to reach thousands of people who otherwise would not benefit by these activities," said Schneider.

The Peace Corps\' multi-faceted, multi-year initiative calls for the expansion of HIV/AIDS projects in Africa\'s most severely affected regions and improved access to prevention and care information for volunteers and their communities. In addition, 200 volunteers will be deployed to work on HIV/AIDS assignments through the Crisis Corps, a Peace Corps program in which former volunteers return to service for a limited period of time.

The global HIV/AIDS epidemic has reached critical proportions, particularly in Africa where it is estimated more than 14 million people have died of the disease, and more than 11 million children have been orphaned by it. Of the 34 million people in the world infected with HIV/AIDS, 24 million are in Africa.

Click Here to Read Director Mark Schneider\'s Remarks

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