The International Federation of the Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies is launching a $65 million dollar appeal Friday to fight HIV/AIDS in Eastern Africa.
Dr. Mukesh Kapila is the federation’s special representative for HIV. From Entebbe, Uganda, he spoke to VOA English to English Service reporter Joe De Capua about the pandemic in Eastern Africa.
“The HIV/AIDS problem in Eastern Africa is amongst the worst in the African continent, which as you know is the worst affected in all the world. In East Africa, there are five million people living with HIV in the countries that have been covered by our program here. And these include half a million children. The prevalence rate of HIV is nearly seven percent and more than four million children have been orphaned by AIDS in recent years,” he says.
He explains how the new $65 million effort would help. “The Red Cross/Red Crescent Alliance on HIV is part of a worldwide initiative that was started about 15, 16 months ago on World AIDS Day 2006. And the first component of that was in Southern Africa, obviously, which is the worst affected region in the world. East Africa is next on the list and we are launching our global alliance program for Eastern Africa. This is covering nine countries and reaching 17-million people with messages on prevention and reducing stigma. It’ll also mean providing services for 30,000 people living with HIV – treatment, care and support services and looking after 130,000 orphans and children. This overall represents a doubling of the Red Cross/Red Crescent programming in Eastern Africa compared to previous years,” he says.
The nine countries covered by the new appeal are Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania, Djibouti, Ethiopia, Madagascar, Sudan, Rwanda and Somalia.
In some of the countries, violence has worsened the HIV/AIDS problem. Dr. Kapila says, “Conflict and violence are a great set-back to programming on HIV. It makes life difficult for many, many people because they’re forced out of their homes. And when people are displaced they are more vulnerable to HIV because they are either…forced into sexual activities they don’t want in order to survive or if they happen to be one of the lucky ones, who are on treatment for HIV, clearly their treatment schedule is upset if their houses are burned down and they leave their neighborhoods. So conflict is bad news for HIV and it makes the job of programming and caring and prevention that much more difficult.”