Living and learning with HIV/AIDS
26 May 2000
Bonn, Germany: During 2000, UN Volunteers shared skills in 115 different professional fields.
"Being pregnant with my youngest child I've been given the terrible news that I was HIV-positive. For me it was the end and I didn't know what to do. I lost my job and my family. Friends were no longer friends and I felt like an alien. It was then that I got to know of the Grupo Clara, a group of HIV-positive persons, whose main task is to help you with all the problems that come up under these circumstances. This group was my rescue - they became a part of me, they are my family. I felt mutual understanding for the different situations and most important, I noticed that I was no longer alone, that others made the same experience and found their way back to life. Suddenly I felt this strong feeling that I had to help others who are going through the same kind of situation. Give a hand and listen, sit together and let the other one feel he's not alone. To be a volunteer for me is being a better human being."
People living with HIV/AIDS in the Dominican Republic are banding together, and standing up for their rights. Knowing best what they need, they support each other in self-help groups - backed by HIV-positive UN Volunteers. As peer counsellors and educators, these UNVs inform HIV-infected people about the help they can receive and encourage them to speak out and get involved. In prisons, for example, they support inmates who have decided to take action against the alarming spread of HIV/AIDS in detention cells.
The UN Volunteers have also started training judges and lawyers about the rights of people living with HIV/AIDS and have produced information and advocacy kits. Through a new informal network of nurses and doctors friendly to the plight of HIV- infected people, there is now better access to health care in the country. And with the support of local partners and the Joint United Nations Programme on AIDS (UNAIDS), the UNVs help build up national and regional networks - reaching out across borders to curb the spread of the disease.
In 2000, UN Volunteers assisted people living with HIV/AIDS around the world:
Forty UN Volunteers worked as part of UNV's pilot initiative to bring support to HIV-positive people in six countries in the Caribbean, the region with the highest incidence of HIV after sub-Saharan Africa: Cuba, Dominican Republic, Guyana, Haiti, Jamaica and Trinidad and Tobago. Other UNV specialists provided similar assistance in Burundi, Cambodia, Malawi and Zambia.
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