A lot has been achieved - and in particular in African countries - in the fight against Aids and accessing drugs. According to UNAIDS 6.6 million of the estimated 14.2 million people eligible for treatment in low and middle income countries were accessing lifesaving ARVs in 2010, an increase of 1.35 million since 2009. The world won't have achieved this without likes of Alicia Keys, Sir Elton John, Annie Lennox, Magic Johnson and of course Bono. I salute them!
But, we have the forgotten heroes. These heroes and heroines hardly get mentioned, I am talking about the local people, the villagers, let me call them the community. They are the soldiers in the front line; they live their lives fighting Aids. I celebrate them today and this is why;
They are the affected; during my time at Nyumbani Orphanage in Kenya, a home that supports HIV positive children, I witnessed how the staff and other children were affected when one of them died as a result of HIV. It was scary, it was disheartening and it was cruel. Whenever someone in a household or a village dies as a result of the scourge, the community is always left vulnerable. This has brought communities together in one way or another to support and provide for each other. I saw this kind of support in the orphanage, how children in their houses would encourage and remind each other to take their medicines every evening and morning. They were there for each other.
They provide the awareness; HIV awareness has been made possible by the willingness of communities to talk and preach about HIV and stigma. Women in particular have been champions of HIV awareness. AMREF works with women in Serengeti Tanzania, in HIV and health. Through this programme, women educate each other and go door to door talking to villagers about HIV and Aids.
They are the members of support groups; In Kibera Kenya, one of the biggest slums in Africa, I was amazed by the network people living with HIV had created. In these support groups, members shared experiences and encouraged each other. They use this platform to support each other, looking after those who were very ill and members were traininned in care giving. Through this support groups, people living with HIV find comfort, strength and hope. I celebrate them.
As the world marks World Aids Day, let's not forget the hope local communities are spreading in the fight against HIV. The resilience and good will of local communities will play a major role in achieving zero Aids related deaths.