The International Federation of the Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies is launching a new five-year program to fight HIV/AIDS in southern Africa. The federation estimates 11-million people in the region – including a half-million children – are living with HIV.
The program calls for a partnership with the World Health Organization and the Southern Africa Information Dissemination Service.
Mukesh Kapila is the special representative for HIV/AIDS for the federation. From the Zimbabwean capital, Harare, he spoke to VOA English to Africa Service reporter Joe De Capua about why a new effort is needed to battle the pandemic.
“Southern Africa is the epicenter of the global HIV/AIDS pandemic. It’s the region with the highest incidence rates, prevalence rates. And though the world has promised many things to southern Africa, over many years, the problem has gone from worse to worse (sic). And this problem cannot be solved by just sitting in coordination meetings and conference calls. You need to address in towns and villages, in communities, in families face to face…we have our volunteers present in every community in the region. We don’t have to come in from outside. We are there already. And this alliance…is all about walking the last mile to get the job done in ensuring ordinary people…are better prepared and supported to deal with this catastrophe, HIV and AIDS,” he says.
He describes what “walking the last mile” means. “We have treatment available. We have the messages that people need to take on board in order to protect themselves, to have a safer life. But these messages are not getting through to people. And all the advances in technology and science, such as new, miraculous HIV treatments, they are bypassing the vast majority of vulnerable and poor people. So, walking the last mile means taking these…technologies to every community in the region, to every family if necessary. And to ensure that they personally understand what is needed, what is available to help them.”