Rotarian Action Group joins AIDS prevention effort
Marion Bunch, chair of Rotarians For Fighting AIDS, spends time with children during a September medical mission in Nairobi, Kenya. Photo courtesy of Bunch
Rotarians for Fighting AIDS (RFFA), a Rotarian Action Group, has joined a broad coalition of organizations in a new initiative designed to combat the spread of AIDS among young people.
Coordinated by the U.S. government, Partnership for an HIV-Free Generation is bringing together public- and private-sector leaders to create marketing campaigns that will promote healthy living among at-risk youth, and to monitor the effectiveness of the messages with cutting-edge market research.
The initiative is being launched in Nairobi, Kenya, with the goal of reducing new HIV infections in 10- to 24-year-olds by 50 percent during the next five years.
In addition, participating organizations will provide mentoring and promote business and educational opportunities for youth.
"Never before have so many top-quality private-sector organizations banded together with the U.S. government to make a difference in reducing HIV infection among youth," says Marion Bunch, RFFA chair. "We are proud to be a part of this leading-edge program, which has a chance of creating a best-practice model for dramatically reducing HIV infections in all of Sub-Saharan Africa."
According to Partnership for an HIV-Free Generation, youth are particularly at risk of contracting AIDS, because they lack information and education and have a low perception of the risk. They also tend to have less access to, and make less use of, health care services.
RFFA will mobilize volunteers at the grassroots to mentor and counsel Nairobi's young people, while working to improve health care and education opportunities.
"RFFA will develop more Rotary Community Corps and mentor them, because these groups actually live and work in the targeted slum areas and get the right messages through to the youth more readily than the Rotary club members," says Bunch.
According to the partnership, girls are particularly at risk of AIDS, for biological, cultural, and sociological reasons. In many countries, infection rates are two to eight times higher for girls.
Economic empowerment is seen as part of the solution. Bunch says Rotarians will provide job counseling, job leads, and information on how to start a microbusiness. And Rotarian business leaders will work with government officials to improve the quality of schools.
In addition to RRFA, other partnering organizations are Accenture, African Broadcast Media Partnership against HIV/AIDS, American Share/Micato Safaris, APCO Worldwide, Coca-Cola Africa Foundation, Draper Richards Foundation, Girl Scouts of the USA, Grassroots Soccer, Global Business Coalition, Hasbro Inc., Intel Corp., Junior Achievement, Microsoft Corp., Mitchell Silberberg & Knupp LLP, MTV Staying Alive Foundation, Nike Foundation, TechnoServe, and Warner Bros. Advanced Media Services Inc.
Warner Bros. has created an interactive, multiplayer computer game to show teens how to identify and avoid risky behaviors.
Henry Kyemba, RI representative to the United Nations Environmental Programme, was appointed by RI President Dong Kurn Lee to represent Rotary at the initiative's launch in Nairobi on 5 December.
"The function gave me an opportunity to interact with key people in fields of common endeavors and to share with them some of Rotary's common challenges," says Kyemba. "I was greatly honored to be there representing Rotary."
Wayne Hearn contributed to this article.