Peace Corps Volunteers Spread AIDS Prevention Message Around the World
December 1, 1997Washington, D.C., December 1, 1997—In the spirit of World AIDS Day, Peace Corps volunteers around the world continue to assist developing countries with HIV/AIDS education and prevention programs. In response to the urgent need for AIDS awareness in the developing world, more than 500 Peace Corps Volunteers are working directly in HIV/AIDS education projects in 26 countries, primarily in Africa and Asia. Hundreds of additional Peace Corps volunteers incorporate AIDS awareness messages into their secondary projects. "While World AIDS Day naturally focuses our collective conscience on this terrible epidemic, hundreds of Peace Corps volunteers grapple daily with HIV/AIDS issues," said Peace Corps Director Mark Gearan. Gearan explained that AIDS prevention and care has become one of the top priorities for Peace Corps volunteers. Some volunteers help train local teachers to teach AIDS education and prevention to young people in their classrooms, while others develop AIDS awareness messages that target other audiences, such as health professionals, women (who are often at high risk), youth, and the general public. In Cameroon, for instance, volunteers have worked with local educators and public health specialists to draft 50 hours of lesson plans for a program called: "Teach English/Prevent AIDS." The lessons have been taught to more than 10,000 students a year, and a similar curriculum has been adapted for use by Peace Corps volunteers in Chad, Gabon and Ethiopia. In Malawi, volunteers have trained local health care personnel as AIDS counselors and promoted ways to reduce risky behavior. In addition, volunteers in several other countries are working on an informal basis with local AIDS coalitions and educational organizations to help develop AIDS information projects designed to appeal to local cultural, religious, and social mores. More than 6,600 Peace Corps volunteers serve in 87 countries around the world, providing assistance not only in AIDS education and prevention, but in protecting the environment, teaching children, promoting health and nutrition, and starting small businesses. Since 1961, more than 150,000 Americans have joined the Peace Corps.