Today, 1st December, is World AIDS Day, and this year’s theme particularly resonates with us. “Communities Make The Difference” pays tribute to volunteers on the ground, at grassroots level, who have fought against HIV in their own communities. Those activists fighting for rights and accessible, affordable treatment, community workers and counsellors, family members who have taken on those orphaned or affected by AIDS, educators pushing back against harmful myths, and those who have even risked their lives to get medical supplies to those who need it, or are fighting discrimination and prejudice against the LGBT community.
Volunteers are an essential part of the fight, and we are privileged to work with our network of hundreds of community football coaches, who are overwhelmingly volunteers. Each week, these coaches go out into their communities to give out information and services that will help young Africans make informed safer choices about their sexual lives. Coaches provide access and referrals to sexual health services, and some provide the services themselves. Without our volunteers, TackleAfrica’s work would simply not exist.
Winnie Byanyima, the Executive Director of UNAIDS, issued a powerful statement today about why communities matter in the fight against HIV and AIDS:
“Communities make change happen. Communities are the best hope for ending AIDS because communities have fought against HIV right from the beginning! As the epidemic raged through our countries, cities, villages, women held communities together and bore the higher burden of care for their families. For far too long we have taken their volunteerism for granted. In the face of adversity, communities of gay men, sex workers and people who use drugs have organized themselves to claim their right to health as equal citizens. So, we know that communities have proved their worth. There is no debate there.”
So today we give extra special thanks to our volunteers in their communities because we know, communities make the difference.