This December ChildHope encourage you to 'Act Aware' for World AIDS Day by developing your understanding of AIDS and by helping to reduce stigma and discrimination against those affected by the disease. See how ChildHope and our partners are working to reduce the risk of contracting AIDS for children and young people in rural Uganda.
Although the majority of people suffering from AIDS live in developing countries, as a global epidemic, the disease can affect any individual, regardless of where they live: 'Act Aware' this World AIDS Day by increasing your own knowledge and understanding of AIDS and its most common myths and misconceptions, and by helping to reduce stigma and discrimination against those diagnosed with AIDS.
Whilst governments and international organisations may have fallen short of Millennium Development Goal 6 to achieve universal access to treatment for AIDS for all those who need it, current efforts to slow down the spread of the disease in the developing world have had positive results. Civil society organisations are leading a revolution in AIDS awareness and prevention by encouraging active participation from children and young people.
In Uganda ChildHope and our partners, the Uganda Reproductive Health Bureau (URHB) and Uganda Youth Anti-AIDS Association (UYAAS), have been running a Community HIV and/or AIDS Intervention Project (CHAIP) to reduce the incidence of HIV and/or AIDS amongst children and young people. The project operates in seven rural and slum communities by providing them with improved access to prevention information, care and support.
Targeting 42,000 in-and out-of-school children, the project has trained around 6,900 children and young people as peer educators so that they can reach out to fellow students about safer sex practices. Approximately 1,700 teachers have also been trained to raise awareness within schools of HIV and/or AIDS and child rights, and help to mainstream these themes into school curricula.
As a result of actively involving children and young people as peer educators, many more children and young people are accessing voluntary counselling and testing services, seeking treatment for sexually transmitted infections, and adopting safer sex practices. Furthermore, in the case of young pregnant mothers, referrals for prevention of mother-to-child transmission services in antenatal clinics has increased. Schools also reported a decrease in teenage pregnancy and female students' drop-out rates.
The Ugandan government's AIDS prevention campaigns have successfully alerted the country to the serious threat of the disease and has even seen a reduction in the incidence of cases. However, popular myths and misconceptions regarding its transmission still prevail, and Ugandans living with AIDS face stigma and discrimination from all levels of society. In order to combat this, CHAIP has also been conducting outreach seminars for community members so that they can gain a better understanding of AIDS, and provide support to people affected.
Projects like CHAIP have helped make a positive difference to the lives of tens of thousands of children and young people affected by or highly vulnerable to HIV and/or AIDS and as such have contributed towards its overall decline in the developing world. However the situation in Uganda highlights the fact that more still needs to be done. Estimates of 1.8 million Ugandans currently infected with HIV and/or AIDS and 1.4 million children orphaned due to the epidemic point to an overall lack of knowledge and appropriate services within the country. 18% of cases involve mother-to-child transmission and young people still account for two out of every five new AIDS infections.
This means that if AIDS is ever to be eradicated, children and young people must be ensured greater participation in developing ways to prevent it, provided with reproductive health education and services, and above all, be made aware of their rights so that they are empowered to protect themselves from this devastating disease.