Peace Corps/Uganda Supports PEPFAR in Delivering Facts about HIV to 25,000 Ugandans

WASHINGTON, D.C., Jan. 12, 2011 In commemoration of World AIDS Day in December 2010, Peace Corps volunteers in Uganda worked alongside representatives from the Presidents Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) in efforts that reached nearly 25,000 of the most rural and HIV-vulnerable people in Uganda.

The U.S. Embassy in Uganda through PEPFAR sponsored six events, which were supported by Peace Corps volunteers. The guest of honor for two events was Peace Corps/Uganda Director Ted Mooney.

The volunteers supported PEPFAR in running local events that were centered around a quiz show focused on HIV/AIDS. Contestants chosen from the crowd were asked questions by a host, much like the American TV show Jeopardy. Correct answers debunked local myths about AIDS, encouraging healthy practices and expanding local knowledge about HIV/AIDS. The theme for the events was Everybody wins when we know the facts about HIV and AIDS.

Click here to see a PEPFAR-produced video about the event.

PEPFAR sponsored the events to accomplish three important goals: to revitalize the conversation about HIV prevention; to target youth and married couples since they are especially vulnerable to HIV infection; and to assure the people of Uganda that the United States is standing firm in its commitment to fight HIV and AIDS in their country. Peace Corps volunteers live in each of the targeted communities, and thus are perfectly positioned to reaffirm these key messages.

Over 2,600 Ugandans were counseled and tested for HIV and more than 100 local HIV and PEPFAR partners helped raise awareness.

Lynne McDermott, a returned Peace Corps volunteer who served in Uganda from 2003 to 2005, is the PEPFAR communications officer for the U.S. Embassy in Uganda. She used skills she learned during her Peace Corps service to make the events a success.

I organized the six events with a rural population in mind, since they are the most vulnerable when it comes to HIV. To be successful, I knew I had to make the events culturally appropriate while recruiting support from community leaders and local partners. I did it using all the knowledge and skills I learned so well in Peace Corps, says McDermott.

Globally, nearly 40 percent of Peace Corps volunteers conduct HIV-related activities as part of their primary or secondary project work. Last year, volunteers participated in HIV education and prevention activities that reached over 1.1 million individuals. Much of Peace Corps response to HIV is made possible by PEPFAR, a program designed to promote HIV prevention around the world.

Peace Corps volunteers worldwide regularly teach classes in HIV prevention, educate at-risk populations, develop community support for children orphaned by AIDS, and educate communities about safe blood donation, voluntary medical male circumcision, and mother-to-child transmission of HIV.

Over 1,081 Peace Corps volunteers have served in Uganda since the program was established in 1964. The primary focus of more than half of the volunteers in this East African nation is working to increase HIV/AIDS awareness and prevention techniques through community health and economic development sectors. Many volunteers working on HIV/AIDS prevention and care receive support from PEPFAR. Volunteers also work to strengthen English, math, and science education. Currently, 148 Volunteers are serving in Uganda. Volunteers are trained and work in the following languages: Ateso, Dhopadhola, Luganda, Lugwere, Lumasaaba, Lusoga, Runyakore, Runyole, Runyoro-Rutoro, and Uhopadhola.

About the Peace Corps: President John F. Kennedy established the Peace Corps on March 1, 1961, by executive order. Throughout 2011, Peace Corps will commemorate 50 years of promoting peace and friendship around the world. Historically, more than 200,000 Americans have served with the Peace Corps to promote a better understanding between Americans and the people of 139 host countries. Today, 8,655 volunteers are working with local communities in 77 host countries. 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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