World Aids Day Honoured in Zambia
December 1st was officially World Aids Day – a day to create HIV/AIDS awareness and promote testing, prevention and treatment. Sanctuary Retreats Philanthropy (SRP) is working with local communities in Zambia to help fight the disease.
Zambia is among the top ten countries burdened with the highest HIV prevalence in the world with 1 in 7 of the population testing positive for the virus. In the Livingstone area this statistic is sadly even higher, estimated at 1 in 4 people testing positive (an improvement from 1 in 3 last year). Of these people testing positive only 38% of them are receiving anti-retroviral treatment, a shocking statistic given that ARTs are free in Zambia. The stigma surrounding this disease is still extremely high here which unfortunately prevents people from coming forward for voluntary counselling and testing (VCT). Without knowing one's status the virus can easily be spread through irresponsible actions which can sadly mean many children are left without their parents to care for them. 36% of children in attendance at Nakatindi Community School are sadly orphaned.
To mark World Aids Day both Sanctuary Sussi & Chuma staff as well as Nakatindi Health Committee members took part in a commemoration march through the streets of Livingstone. The event was attended by many different organizations, each doing their part to try to reduce the stigma and spread of this virus.
The official theme for the day was "Zambia's Future: Getting to Zero New HIV Infections". Following the march everyone gathered to listen to informative speeches given by a selection of representatives from UNAIDS/WHO, Government ministers and others. The First Lady, Esther Lungu also gave a speech to mark the day and provide support and promote education for the people of Zambia, particularly the youth who are the countries future. We also enjoyed a number of entertainment performances by local bands and comedy groups, all with the strong message of the importance of knowing your status.
At SRP we are also holding a more localised program with the Nakatindi Community to raise awareness around HIV/AIDS. Working together with the Ministry of Health and the Nakatindi Health Committee we are holding a sensitisation program, encouraging people to come forward for VCT. The program has been going for a week so far and will continue for a further week, urging people within Nakatindi Clinic's catchment area to know their status and if necessary be placed on Antiretroviral Treatment (ARTs). As an incentive we will also be giving out a selection of mountain bikes from Chipego Bike Shop to randomly selected participants who came forward for VCT.
We are hoping that the chance to win a bicycle will be a draw for people to come forward for VCT, targeting those who would otherwise not be willing to get tested. Unfortunately we are still battling against a population who are still very uneducated about the virus with common misconceptions still widely believed. It will take a mammoth effort to have a significant impact, however hopefully our campaign will go some way to spreading this message and informing the youth to know their status and act responsibly.
To find out more about our philanthropy projects, as well as how you can get involved, check out the philanthropy section of our website here.