Port of Spain, Trinidad and Tobago: I was documenting medical history from a newly diagnosed HIV-positive patient, accompanied by his very caring wife, when they told me how much they loved to dance every weekend before they got ill. The couple returned after a fortnight, but to my astonishment their medical file bore an older clinical number and was considerably heavier in content. Although it had the same last name, the clinical number was about 4 years old.
Tashkent, Uzbekistan: Few people realize that, although currently there is no cure for HIV, the existing medicine has turned HIV into a chronic disease, with which HIV-positive people can and do live long, productive, flourishing lives, and have HIV-negative partners and children. Moreover, if taken correctly, modern medicine minimizes the risk of HIV transmission to others and allows partners to take preventative medicine. Yet, misunderstanding and stigma persist.
Darfur, Sudan: When I started volunteering in Darfur with the African Union-United Nations Hybrid Operation in Darfur (UNAMID) as an HIV/AIDS Trainer/Counselor, my responsibilities included carrying awareness training, counselling and testing. I worked with other UNAMID sections, other peacekeepers and internally displaced persons. The exposure and ownership that I've been given over the projects, as well as the time and responsibility that I've been given from professionals that I've worked with has been overwhelming.
Monrovia, Liberia: The post war in Liberia, like any conflict of its kind in the world, left behind factors that fuel the sexual mode of transmission of diseases including HIV. In keeping with UN Security Council Resolution 1308 (2000), all peacekeepers are required to go through a mandatory awareness sensitation and prevention training on basic facts on HIV/AIDS, personal risk assessment and cultural risk factors to HIV/Sexual TI transmission in post war Liberia.
Darfur, Sudan: In 2009, I joined UNAMID as a volunteer HIV and AIDS trainer/counsellor, after having served as a VSO volunteer HIV and AIDS advisor in Cambodia, and as an HIV and AIDS counsellor with TASO in my own country of Uganda. I am passionate about volunteering, having started work as a volunteer in Uganda, and born in a family of volunteers - my father and mother were community volunteers helping those in need.
Monrovia, Liberia: Living through the Ebola epidemic in Liberia, I observed first-hand what was achieved by the global community. By complementing local efforts, it controlled and contained what could have otherwise become another viral infectious disease of global epidemic proportions. The key actions that contributed to the successful control of the Ebola epidemic in West Africa were essentially the prompt actions taken by the UN to marshal resources and other stakeholders to control the spread of the virus.
Darfur, Sudan: Fighting the spread of HIV in war zones and conflict settings is a major challenge facing UN Missions across the globe. The conflict in Darfur has resulted in huge displacements of populations, disruption to family structures and livelihoods, as well as the deterioration of health infrastructures. Additionally, it has led to the creation of camps for internally displaced persons (IDPs) across the region. In general, the spread of HIV/AIDS is exacerbated by conditions of violence and instability that increase the risk of exposure to the disease.
Sarajevo, Bosnia and Herzegovina: The International Organization for Migration (IOM) of Bosnia and Herzegovina has a variety of important and successful projects related to border management, migration, and human trafficking. In early February 2013, I was warmly welcomed as a new intern with the United Nations Volunteers (UNV) programme in the Migration Health Programme. This great opportunity brings a new perspective to my previous migration experience.
Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic: My work as a UN Volunteer with UNICEF Dominican Republic has been the most challenging experience of my professional career. Before arriving I did not know exactly what to expect from a different country and health system. After only a few months, I was aware of the existing problems and I was ready to contribute my knowledge and skills and work with local actors to achieve a common goal.
Lima, Peru: I first became interested in HIV issues a number of years ago when I learned that close friends had acquired the virus. At that time, I was in Peru working on rights, citizen participation and health issues. Soon after, I left for the Netherlands to study. My Masters dissertation, which focused on citizen participation of people living with HIV, brought all of these issues together.