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World AIDS Day: 24 years later, more to do

The first World AIDS Day was held in 1988, and a great number of medical and social advances have been made in the 24 years since then. Nevertheless, much remains to be done. Today, we turn our focus to ChildFund’s work in India and Africa.

Rajashri is a supervisor for the Link Workers Scheme, a ChildFund-supported program in India that helps children orphaned due to AIDS and some who are HIV-positive. She provides medication for hundreds of children infected with the disease in 19 districts of Andhra Pradesh, a central Indian province with a population of about 76 million. ChildFund India has identified more than 7,400 children in Andhra Pradesh who have been orphaned or left otherwise vulnerable by HIV and AIDS.

Although African nations often receive the most attention when the topic of AIDS arises, India has approximately 2.4 million people living with HIV, the third-highest population in the world, based on a 2009 estimate by UNAIDS. According to the Indian government, the state of Andhra Pradesh reported the second-highest HIV rate in the nation. More than 11,600 HIV-positive children and adults have been reached so far through the Link Workers Scheme, which targets high-risk groups with prevention and risk-reduction information.

 width=Lucy, a nine-year-old who is HIV-positive, lives in Lamu, an island off the coast of Kenya. She, her grandmother, her aunt and four cousins share a one-room thatched home.

When Lucy was a baby, her mother died from AIDS complications. Their village had few resources to deal with the disease, but now, with ChildFund’s support, Lucy goes to a district hospital to receive antiretroviral treatment. She is healthy and thriving at school.

At age 8, Lucy started attending a support group for children living with HIV. “I know my status, and that is why I take my medicine, so that I can remain strong to be able to go to school and also play like the other children,” Lucy says. “My teacher and some neighbours know my status, too, and I know they love and support me.”

A side benefit of ChildFund’s and others’ work in Kenya has been a greater acceptance of those affected by HIV, lessening the stigma of the disease.

“When I was requested to enrol her in a support group, I hesitated, but today Lucy shares information about the support group discussions with all of us here,” her grandmother says. “Through her, we have learned a lot about HIV/AIDS.”

World AIDS Day is celebrated each year on 1 December. The international theme this year is ‘Getting to zero: Zero new HIV infections. Zero discrimination. Zero AIDS-related deaths’. Click here for more information. Learn more about ChildFund Australia’s HIV and AIDS programs here.

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