World AIDS Day: community voices

Nov 29, 2016 · 4 min read
Photo: Italian Red Cross, Rome branch

As part of the Italian Red CrossMeet, Test and Treat campaign, sex workers on the street in and around Rome are now receiving free HIV testing and information on how to prevent HIV and tuberculosis. Every Friday night until next February, teams of volunteers from the Italian Red Cross, Villa Marini Foundation, and the Infectious Diseases Unit of the Tor Vergata University will be promoting testing, prevention and treatment of sexually transmitted diseases and tuberculosis in squares and in other public areas of Italy’s capital city.

Photo: Andreea Anca / IFRC

Konstantin (front), 50, and Pavel, 37, are living with HIV and the only ones disclosing their identities when photographed together with other members of a support group for people living with HIV at the Red Cross’ information and counselling centre in Tula, Russia. The group gathers once a month at the Red Cross facility to discuss the common concerns related to their status. “I lost all my friends. I only have this group and the Red Cross,” said Konstantin. In Tula, Russian Red Cross workers provide direct assistance to people living with HIV, including palliative care.

Photo: Felix Washon / Malawi Red Cross

In Salima, central Malawi, a behavioural change project run by the Malawi Red Cross has helped female sex workers like Joyce Banda transform their lives.

Thanks to the professional training and counselling received from the Red Cross, Joyce (on the right in the photo), 52, is now running a bakery in Chipoka together with other sex workers and women who were victims of sexual exploitation and abuse. She says that she and the other women are now happy because they have been economically empowered and can make informed choices like safe sex during their sex work and freely control proceeds from the sales they make.

Photo: D. Sadunoev / Tajikistan Red Crescent Society

For 20 years, more than a million Tajik families have been relying on income from loved ones heading to Russia and Kazakhstan for seasonal work. Labour migrants are considered one of the groups at high risk of contracting HIV. Also of concern is the increase in the frequency of HIV-associated and multi-drug resistant tuberculosis, as people living with HIV are much more likely to develop active tuberculosis. In Russia, Tajikistan and Kazakhstan, National Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies have launched jointly the Train of Humanity — for the health of migrants, a campaign aimed at providing health and legal information to men and women en route to work further west.

Photo: Salvadorean Red Cross Society

To mark National HIV Day, Red Cross volunteers participate in a solidarity pilgrimage for people with HIV in El Salvador. The Salvadorean Red Cross is engaged in preventing HIV through activities including national testing campaigns, support to people living with HIV, and condom distribution, as well as training of peer educators and other educational programmes.

In Thailand, the Thai Red Cross AIDS Research Centre has launched an innovative online HIV self-testing service targeted for men who have sex with men and transgender people. Check out their video tutorial.

Photo: Bolivian Red Cross

Youth volunteers of the Bolivian Red Cross’ branch in Chuquisaca raise awareness of HIV and AIDS in the community of Multitematics during a local event. The event is an opportunity to disseminate messages aimed at addressing myths about HIV, and combating stigma and discrimination towards people living with the virus.

Doan Thi Khuyen is a volunteer with the Viet Nam Red Cross Society. She and her son are living with HIV. In this video interview, she shared her personal experience.

Photo: South African Red Cross Society

In the village of Maluti, near the town of Matatiele, South Africa, the South African Red Cross Society runs a psychosocial support programme for children living with HIV.

“When we started the project, a lot of the children did not talk much of their future and looked all doom and gloom. We slowly started engaging them, explaining what HIV was, and that even though some lost their loved ones, that they needed to continue carrying the torch that there was life after HIV infection,” said one of the caregivers.

Today, more than 90 per cent of the children registered in the project now have positive mindsets, showing that HIV does not and should not hinder their future.


Written by


International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies.

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