This Sunday (8/13) the 16th International AIDS Conference gets underway in Toronto. While there will be literally thousands of scientific, social and community presentations, efforts are also being made to ensure the voices of those affected by the disease are heard.
The NGO ActionAid is operating the “Get on Board” bus, also known as the “Bus of Hope.” It’s traveling through African countries recording the stories of everyday people and how their lives have changed due to HIV/AIDS. Those stories will be presented to world leaders, who can affect AIDS policies.
“The bus…was something that we launched last year," said Action Aid spokesperson Kate Nustedt," and it traveled all through southern and eastern Africa before making its voyage up to the G8 [summit in Scotland], up through Europe and handed messages over to the G8 leaders. This year it’s gone back to communities in Tanzania and Uganda, mainly to go back to the communities that we collected messages from last year. To go back to them and say what happened last year and also to follow up their stories.”
“There’s one woman, for example. Her name’s Hajida," explained Nustedt. "She lives in Bwaise, which is one of the slums in Kampala. And when we visited her last year it was pouring down with rain and her house had literally fallen down that morning… and she gave us a very, very potent message, which we passed on, which was saying, 'why are we still poor?'” Hajida is a 50-year-old HIV-positive woman who cares for 11 children and her sick mother.
“So we went back to see her just last week," Nustedt continued. "ActionAid has helped to build a new house for her and also enough space so that she could rent out some of the rooms. So, her message was really, 'thank you very much for helping me to build my house.'”
Nustedt adds there are literally thousands of stories similar to Hajida’s.