International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies Launches Campaign to Fight HIV/AIDS Stigma
The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies on Monday announced that it is launching a two-year campaign to fight the stigma associated with HIV/AIDS today, World Red Cross Red Crescent Day, the Associated Press reports (Fowler, Associated Press, 5/6). The campaign, titled, "The Truth about AIDS -- Pass It On," aims "to act, to speak out [and] to lobby for political changes" at the international, national and local levels to reduce the stigma and discrimination that surrounds HIV/AIDS. Because of the taboos and cultural barriers surrounding the disease, some individuals are afraid to get tested for HIV, and some HIV-positive people decline to discuss their diagnoses and may not seek treatment (IFRC Web site, 5/7). "People with AIDS often live in fear of being ostracized by their family and friends," Dr. Alvaro Bermejo, head of the IFRC health department, said, adding, "The epidemic will continue to defeat us unless we can do something" about that fear (Associated Press, 5/6). The campaign, which will be internationally led but implemented by individual nations, will work to ensure that everyone with HIV/AIDS receives "appropriate" care, has access to affordable drugs and is able to live "full and useful" lives in their communities. The campaign also aims to prevent HIV transmission by encouraging testing (IFRC Web site, 5/7). IFRC also plans to improve existing HIV education and counseling programs and to recruit HIV-positive people as Red Cross Red Crescent volunteers. In addition, as part of the campaign publicity, ceremonies during which an HIV-positive person will remove a blindfold from the eyes of the presidents of Belize, Honduras and Mozambique will be held in each country. The IFRC hopes that the activity -- part of the "Take a Look: Stigma Kills" aspect of the campaign -- will prompt other public figures to do likewise (Associated Press, 5/6). "This symbolic act will demonstrate Red Cross Red Crescent's willingness to examine and face its own response to the HIV/AIDS epidemic as well as underlining the commitment to join the fight against HIV/AIDS-related stigma and discrimination in general," the IFRC said (IFRC Web site, 5/7). Approximately 40 million individuals worldwide are HIV-positive (Associated Press, 5/6).This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.