There is such a category of people, and this category is getting bigger ad
bigger each day - HIV-infected and AIDS diseased. Everybody - relatives, friends
and acquaintances - turns away from them, fearing to be infected. They become
social outcasts in the society, but at the same time HIV-infected people need
this society, its understanding and help. Since a man is a social being, s/he
cannot be alone, cannot be needless. There is a terrible trial, when a person
becomes aware about his/her diagnosis, that s/he is a carrier of the most
dangerous incurable infection, and perhaps there is not much time left for him
to live. And this is not a trial only for HIV-infected person. This is a trial
for everybody. Not every man can bear it. It is possibly the last and the most
difficult trial for AIDS diseased. What for? Nobody knows. This is possibly even
not their trial, but a trial of those, who are next to them, trial for us to be
able to love, to love mercifully those, who are mortally and dangerously ill, to
know how to help them in the most difficult minutes for them in their life.
There is a trial for us to be able to help those, who are mortally ill. There is
a trial in order to survive.
Now for mankind as a whole one of the heaviest tests is AIDS. As the HIV/AIDS
pandemic reaches massive proportions with little sign of abating, the need for a
global response is vital.
> The figures speak for themselves. HIV/AIDS will kill more people this
decade than all the wars and disasters in the past 50 years. Since the AIDS
epidemic began, 25 million people have died and more than 40 million are now
living with HIV and AIDS.
A key reason for the spread of HIV/AIDS is the stigma attached to it.
Cultural barriers and beliefs have made the topic taboo and people living with
HIV and AIDS are frequently discriminated against. Some people may not even know
they are HIV-positive or do not want to admit to or talk about the virus. Often
governments refuse to even acknowledge the existence of HIV/AIDS.
On 8 May 2002, "The truth About AIDS. Pass it on..." campaign was launched on
World Red Cross Red Crescent Day. This major global campaign aims to reduce
HIV/AIDS related stigma and discrimination, to pass on the truth about HIV/AIDS
and warn against the dangers of stigmatizing those who are infected, or their
All background information and general material for the campaign, news on
National Society activities, news stories, press releases and images can be
found in this special section.
To commemorate the 2003 anniversary of World Red Cross Red Crescent Day,
phase II of the campaign - the Stamps campaign - was launched on 8 May 2003.
Continuing the theme of fighting HIV/AIDS-related stigma and discrimination, a
series of designs based on stamps have been developed. These designs focus on
countering myths and misconceptions about HIV/AIDS transmission.
'You cannot get AIDS by... being a friend', "You cannot get AIDS by...
holding hands" and "You cannot get AIDS by talking to someone" are just a few of
the messages that can be seen on the stamp designs.
To mark the launch of the new stamp campaign, Red Cross and Red Crescent
National Societies across the world will be organizing events to show off the
artwork and attract awareness to the campaign.
Millions of people around the world are being needlessly infected and killed
by HIV/AIDS more than 20 years into the pandemic because of the continued
stigmatization, discrimination and marginalization of people living with the
disease, the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies
"We don't have time to waste. The world is losing the battle against
HIV/AIDS. Each year, more and more people die from the disease and it is the
stigma and misinformation around HIV that is killing people," said International
Federation president, Juan Manuel Suarez del Toro, on World Red Cross Red
Crescent Day (May 8).
"People place themselves at high risk from infection or refuse to access
treatment rather than face the consequences of social stigma, such as losing
their homes, businesses and even their families. In Africa, women with HIV
continue to breast-feed because if they stop, everyone will know why. And then
babies are put at risk. The world has had more than two decades to learn about
the disease and how it is passed on, so there is no excuse for this continued
abuse of human dignity," Suarez del Toro added.
World AIDS Day 2003 highlights "Live and let live" - the theme of the World
AIDS Campaign 2002-2003. The campaign focuses on eliminating stigma and
discrimination, the major obstacles to effective HIV/AIDS prevention and care.
World AIDS Day is commemorated around the globe on 1 December. It celebrates
progress made in the battle against the epidemic - and brings into focus
What's happening on 1 December?
Music Television and One World
International will announce the winner of the first annual Staying Alive Award
on World AIDS Day. The award was launched to recognize the contribution of an
individual to increasing awareness of HIV/AIDS. Young people from around the
world were invited to produce and submit original audio or video public service
announcements that convey the messages of Staying Alive, MTV's award-winning
HIV/AIDS awareness campaign. The Staying Alive campaign is a partnership between
MTV, Family Health International, Kaiser Family Foundation, UNAIDS and the World
"Some people think that they can become infected by mosquito bites, or
by sharing the same toilet or even by working in the same office as people with
HIV/AIDS and that the only way to avoid this is to physically shun them. Even
medical personnel practice this kind of discrimination," the President of
International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, Mr. Suarez del
Other examples of misinformation and stigma include the position taken by
faith-based and other prominent organizations condemning the use of condoms and
other proven measures to limit the spread of sexually-transmitted diseases such
as HIV/AIDS, while singling out high-risk populations for blame and
"Some organizations are acting irresponsibly by providing misleading
information about HIV/AIDS. The realities around AIDS are somewhat different. We
already know safe sex works. People think that needle exchange programmes such
as those run by the Red Cross to contain the spread of HIV among injecting drug
users, promote drug use. Wrong. We know that this approach not only helps to
significantly reduce HIV infection among injecting drug users, but also opens a
way to reduce drug addiction itself," said Dr. Massimo Barra, creator of an
Italian Red Cross foundation that assists injecting drug users and board member
of the Global Fund to Fight HIV/AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria.
In Geneva, the youth branch of the Red Cross, together with youth delegates
from 13 Eastern European sister societies and Young Positive, a global network
of HIV positive youth, are performing a series of activities dispelling HIV/AIDS
myths through graffiti art and enactments and relaying messages that would help
people find ways to overcome stigma and discrimination.
Six African Red
Cross Societies - Ethiopia, Kenya, Namibia, Uganda, Zambia and Zimbabwe - have
agreed to develop treatment programmes for people with HIV/AIDS with technical
support from the International Federation. It was a decision that was announced
as African Red Cross and Red Crescent societies, the International Federation's
HIV/AIDS governance group, donors and partner organizations, met in Windhoek for
a conference on community social mobilization.
"Too many people are dying. Our governments do not have enough resources
because the scale of the HIV/AIDS epidemic is just too great. Any new player who
can get people onto treatment and save more lives, is welcome," says Dr Tito
Fachi, president of the Zambian Red Cross.
"People look to the Red Cross to help save the situation. There are very few
other organizations that can help who have a humanitarian mandate like ours. We
have to respond," he adds.
HIV and AIDS can touch raw nerves in all our
communities. The stigma of HIV and AIDS relates to deep taboos within society.
For much the disease has a strong association with prolonged illness, death, sex
and drug use -- issues that many of us find difficult to talk about openly.
Along with general discomfort about discussing these 'taboo' issues, many
communities are also dealing with high levels of ignorance, denial, fear and
intolerance about the disease itself. This potent combination can lead to
rejection and even aggression against people living with HIV. As a result, their
families, fired from their jobs, asked to leave their homes, have disowned
people with HIV. They can face discrimination in receiving medical care. In
extreme cases they have even been physically attacked. Stigma and discrimination
can lead to depression, lack of self-worth and despair for people living with
HIV. But people living with the disease are not the only ones endangered by this
fear and prejudice.
Negative attitudes about HIV can create a climate in
which people become more afraid of the stigma and discrimination associated with
the disease than of the disease itself. When fear and discrimination prevail,
people may choose to ignore the possibility that they may be HIV-positive - even
if they know they have taken risks. And people may decide not to take measures
to protect themselves in fear that in doing so they could be associating
themselves with HIV. All of this helps to create an environment in which the
disease can more easily spread.
This year's World AIDS Campaign encourages
both individuals and institutions to reflect on how they respond to those living
with HIV and AIDS. With challenging posters and television images the campaign
clearly shows how the most painful symptoms of HIV and AIDS are often the
reactions of others. When someone feels safe within their own community, they
are more likely to take responsibility for their HIV status. This is why it is
so important for all of us to examine our own attitudes. We need to ask
ourselves: are we helping to create an environment where people can take
responsibility for themselves and others? Or do our attitudes contribute to an
environment of shame, fear and denial that prevents people from taking action?
Only by confronting stigma and discrimination across the world will the fight
against HIV/AIDS be won.
Live and let live! Help us fight fear, shame, ignorance and
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