As we celebrate World AIDS Day on December 1, we’re excited by how far the global community has come: new HIV infections have fallen by 38% since 2001 and the number of AIDS deaths has fallen from 2.3 million in 2005 to 1.5 million in 2013. While this is significant progress, there is still an alarming number of people, 35 million, living with HIV. Every day more than 5,700 people contract HIV—nearly 240 every hour.
Developing regions account for the highest rates of infection, with sub-Saharan Africa alone accounting for more than 70 percent of new infections and nearly 25 million of the total number of people living with the virus worldwide. HIV/AIDS is killing farmers, teachers and health workers.
Globally, women comprise 52% of all people living with HIV in low- and middle-income countries, and HIV/AIDS is the leading cause of death among women of reproductive age. In addition to the greater physiological vulnerability of women to HIV, gender inequalities include vulnerability to rape, sex with older men, and unequal access to education and economic opportunities. These make HIV-related risks especially acute for girls and young women.
Our programs have made a firm commitment to prevent and put an end to the spread of HIV/AIDS. With educational sessions in rural communities throughout Africa, South Asia and Latin America, The Hunger Project also seeks to raise awareness about HIV/AIDS and empower people to overcome the unwarranted stigma around it. We help put a stop to gender inequality that often serves to fuel the pandemic. As a result, people from rural communities are more confident to undergo voluntary counseling and testing (VCT).
In partnership with governments and other civil society organizations, we provide access to health care services, immunizations, antiretroviral treatments and more. Here is what we do to combat HIV/AIDS:
- HIV/AIDS and Gender Inequality Workshops. In response to the HIV/AIDS pandemic in Africa, in 2003 The Hunger Project launched HIV/AIDS and Gender Inequality Workshops to empower grassroots people to transform the conditions that have perpetuated HIV/AIDS. Ten years later, more than 4 million people have attended these workshops.
- Microfinance Program for People Living with HIV/AIDS. In Malawi and Uganda, a special Microfinance Program aims specifically at empowering often ostracized HIV-positive partners. While many NGOs do not provide loans to HIV-positive people out of fear that they will die before loans are repaid, The Hunger Project operates differently. We believe that all people have the right to access resources that can help them live better and more independent lives. With access to loans, people living with HIV/AIDS can, and do, improve their lives.
- Female condom distribution. We seek to empower women to take control of their sexual and reproductive health with the distribution of female condoms at epicenter health centers.
- HIV/AIDS Counseling and Awareness: In Ghana, for example, The Hunger Project organized a “Know Your Status” campaign. And in Ethiopia, communities do pre-marriage HIV/AIDS tests by prospective spouses, which has reportedly made a contributing to controlling the spread of the virus.
- Access to HIV/AIDS testing and treatments. In addition to generating awareness about the root causes of HIV/AIDS infections, mobile voluntary counseling and testing (VCT) services are offered in partner villages.
In conjunction with the gender equality programs and workshops, these programs seek to raise awareness about safe sex practices, and reduce the risk of HIV/AIDS transmission.
This World AIDS Day, joins us in honoring the progress that has been made in the fight against HIV/AIDS and in rallying our world to end the pandemic once and for all!
Reducing Stigma of HIV in Uganda
Blog: The Importance of Scaling-up HIV/AIDS Awareness