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Reporting Back: World AIDS Day on our St Lucia Project

  St Lucia Volunteer Coordinator Alanna gives us the lowdown on what the team on our Orphan Day Care & HIV/AIDS Education Project and our Medical Outreach & HIV/AIDS Awareness Projects in St Lucia got up to for World AIDS Day last week...   Click here for Part 1.   Last week marked the 23rd annual World AIDS Day, and our volunteers and staff were thrilled to culminate a great year with a number of awareness events. It was probably the most important day of the year, being in what we call here the “epicenter of the epidemic”: the province with the highest HIV rate (40%) in the country with the greatest number of people living with the virus (5.6 million).   Both staff and volunteers developed a few different activities, mostly based around positive living and the ABCs of HIV (Abstinence, Be faithful, Condomize). Our projects are spread over two communities in the St Lucia area so it was only natural that we spend the morning in Khula Village and the afternoon in Ezwenelisha.   Our Khula Village activities included a walk to the village from our house in St Lucia (which ended up being about 8km), and ended in two friendly sports matches with the provincially funded football and netball teams. It was a day of promoting positive living, which is integral for a population that Africa Centre believes is 70-80% HIV-positive.   The afternoon activities were held in Ezwenelisha, a community much more rural and spread out. However, we were excited to have almost 50 people attend our keynote speaker from the Department of Health, who spoke about the importance of regular HIV testing and answered several questions from the audience. We were surprised that many of the attendees were young men - a demographic we have trouble recruiting for our weekly HIV education courses. In true Zulu fashion, the event included poetry readings, singing and dancing.   The following day we were asked to participate in a Peace Corps event where we did condom demonstrations and handed out the government's free "Choice" condoms. We spoke about the ABCs of HIV again and answered a great number of questions from the event's attendees.   In all, it was a very successful week for our projects and for the communities in which we work. With the current global economic crisis, there were many doubts this week as to how sub-Saharan Africa will cope with the epidemic. Despite a decline in AIDS-related deaths, the cutting of funding to the Global Fund still hangs heavily over the many who still need access to life-prolonging antiretroviral medications.   Although funding for these drugs is an integral component of keeping large populations of sub-Saharan Africans alive, we believe that education is such an important tool in the fight against the spread of HIV/AIDS. By reaching out to adults and the youth of South Africa, it is our hope that we can curb new infections in the years to come. With a balance between saving some of the Global Fund's contributions and increasing awareness education, we have no doubt that many HIV-positive populations will prosper.   We just must remember that spreading HIV awareness all around the world is not just important on World AIDS Day, but every day.    

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