On Friday, the world will unite for World AIDS Day. Held on December 1st each year, World AIDS Day is an opportunity for people worldwide to unite in the fight against HIV, show their support for people living with HIV and to commemorate people who have died.
Why is celebrating World AIDS Day Important?
Globally, an estimated 33.3 million people have HIV. More than 25 million people between 1981 and 2007 have died from the virus, making it one of the most destructive pandemics in history. In Africa, 17 million people have died since the epidemic began in the late 1970s. More than 3.3 million of those who have died have been children. In addition, it is reported that AIDS has orphaned 12 million children.
Despite scientific advances and increased awareness, many people still don’t know how to protect themselves and discrimination is still faced by many with the virus. World AIDS Day serves as an important reminder to the public and Government that HIV has not gone away – there is still a vital need to raise money, increase awareness, fight prejudice and improve education.
How do we solve the problem?
Our founder, Angelique Kidjo, believes that in terms of Africa, the problem is rooted in the inferior status of women in African society: “A girl in Africa has no identity. She belongs to the father who can marry her off at any age to anybody. The girls have no say. Nobody hears their dreams. They start their sexual life early and there’s no program to protect them. Most African men don’t even know that pills exist.”
In fact, in Sub-Saharan Africa, 75 percent of HIV-infected youth between the ages of 15 and 24 are girls.
But this can change when girls receive an education; Education empowers girls to make their own decisions. This allows them to marry later and have more control over their own health choices, which can help combat the spread of HIV/AIDS.
How can you support World AIDS Day through Batonga?
In Benin, Ethiopia and Cameroon, Batonga invests in the education of girls who have been orphaned by AIDS or girls whose family members have been affected by HIV/AIDS. We also provide mentoring activities that are designed to foster self-esteem among the girls and provide them with valuable life skills and information on HIV/AIDS prevention.
One of our scholars in Ethiopia, Aynalem, lost both of her biological parents to famine as a child and then lost her adoptive parents to HIV/AIDS six years ago. Despite her difficult childhood, she completed high school with high scores and was able to begin studying law in the evenings through the help of Batonga. She is now in her second year, performing well in school, and looking toward a bright future.
Education is the foundation for the success of all HIV programming. Education allows students to learn about the risks of HIV and to develop skills that can protect them their throughout their lives.