The International HIV / AIDS Alliance & World AIDS Day
When I was a teenager, my step-mother Anne, worked to promote sexual health awareness and I used to really admire what she did. Since then I’d often where a red ribbon each year on December 1st to show my support but I soon lost touch with what was happening in terms of any medical developments and the facts about prevention and cure. When I started to do some research, I found that things have moved on considerably in the last twenty years. Did you know, for example, that it only takes 15 minutes to take an HIV test and get your results now? Take the test to see if you’re HIV Aware here.
Over the last few weeks I’ve been supporting The International HIV/AIDS Alliance who are working with their many partners on an international project called Link Up, an ambitious, five country programme which aims to improve the sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR) of more than one million young people living with and affected by HIV in Bangladesh, Burundi, Ethiopia, Myanmar and Uganda. The project recognises that young people remain at the centre of the HIV epidemic and they have the power, through their leadership, to help bring an end to AIDS.
Through the stories of Momina, and an enterprising young dance troupe called Addis Beza, the AIDS Alliance hope to create a stronger awareness and understanding of the current situation around the world concerning HIV and AIDS, and the challenges those living with HIV face day to day.
I felt so touched by these stories and so proud to be a part of the campaign, I wanted to share them with you too.
Momina is a 22 year old single mother of two who lives in the city of Adama in central Ethiopia and was diagnosed as living with HIV three years ago. Although she wears a smile, sadness is etched across her face when she talks about her younger son, Yerosa. Born HIV positive, he is now three but Momina knows very little of his life save for the occasional photos she is sent by the American family who adopted him. Momina took the agonising decision to give him up for adoption in the hope that he would be able to receive medical treatment.
In telling her story today, Momina hopes that she might help other young women just like her, to know how they can protect themselves from contracting HIV and get the care and support they need through projects like Link Up being led by the International HIV/AIDS Alliance.
Today’s young people are the first generation that has never known a world without HIV and AIDS. In Ethiopia, where more than half of the population is under the age of 24, cultural attitudes among the older generation towards sexual health issues are making it difficult for young people to arm themselves with the knowledge they need to keep themselves safe.
But one enterprising group of youngsters in Addis Ababa, the BEZA Anti-AIDS youth group, are determined to use their combined talents for music and dance to get messages about HIV prevention across to the public and their peers. Members of the youth group, all aged between 15 and 20, have founded a dance troupe called Addis Beza, meaning “to live for others”. The troupe perform regularly in popular public spots around Addis Ababa, using the occasion to hand out information leaflets and to encourage people to get tested for HIV free of charge so that they know their status and can be treated accordingly.
The mobile testing clinics are organised by the Organisation for Social Services for AIDS (OSSA), Ethiopia’s largest NGO working on HIV, and attract up to a thousand people over the course of five days. If somebody is found to be HIV positive, they are then referred on to a local health facility for access to treatment, care and support.
At the youth club centre, as well as training long hours to learn dance moves, members take it in turns to offer a drop in counselling service for young people and to give out free condoms. Habtegoregies Hailu, better known as Habte, is the club’s chairman, and is determined to help them navigate through their teenage years.
What can you do to help?
Show your support to Momina, Link Up and the International HIV/AIDS Alliance by:
- Sharing Momina’s story on Facebook or Twitter #LinkUp
- Keeping up to date with the work being carried out through Link Up at www.link-up.org
- Follow the International HIV/AIDS Alliance on Twitter @theaidsalliance and on Facebook