By Felicita Hikuam WINDHOEK “HIV-positive people might be positive, but they are still productive citizens of our country who can meaningfully contribute towards the socio-economic development of any country,” says Connie Samaria, an employee of the Namibian Red Cross Society, who has been living with HIV for 12 years. He was speaking at the Namibia Red Cross Society outreach activity on Monday, November 28, which kick-started the organization’s World AIDS Day activities for the week. More than 200 people were reached with this event. The outreach was aimed at getting Namibia Red Cross staff and volunteers involved and mobilized to raise awareness of HIV-related issues in their communities. Staff members of the organization contributed financially while the organization donated clothing items to vulnerable members of the Kabila informal settlement in Windhoek. “As Red Cross staff we recognize that HIV is a part of the communities we serve. Staff and volunteers of the organization were reminded through this activity that HIV affects them and that they have to contribute personally to the AIDS response,” said Razia Essack-Kauaria, Secretary General of the Namibia Red Cross Society. Since the establishment of the Namibia Red Cross Society (NRCS) in 1992, the national society has worked diligently to serve the vulnerable communities of Namibia. With regional offices in seven of the thirteen regions of the country (Caprivi, Karas, Kavango, Khomas, Kunene, Ohangwena and Otjozondjupa), the organization works at community level as an auxiliary to the Namibian Government, contributing towards the National Strategy, Vision 2030. The Namibia Red Cross Society aims to address the basic needs of the most vulnerable Namibian communities in the areas of health and care, disaster management, and promotion of humanitarian values through organizational development. In 2005, the devastating and far-reaching effects of the AIDS pandemic, poverty and growing food insecurity, have remained the national society’s main priorities. Through partnership with other AIDS service organizations, Government, people living with HIV/AIDS and the dedication and commitment of volunteers, the NRCS implements HIV prevention, home based care, treatment support and stigma reduction activities. Additionally, the plight of orphans and children made vulnerable by HIV/AIDS is one of the main concerns of the society. Historically, World AIDS Day is marked around the country by people living with HIV/AIDS (PLWHA), government institutions, civil society organizations and community members uniting to raise awareness of the issue and highlight the theme of the day. MTC, the Mobile Telecommunications company partnered with the Namibia Red Cross Society for the World AIDS Day activities in a sponsorship that included the printing of posters and prizes for competitions. “We as HIV-positive people do not want special treatment, but equal treatment. That is all we ask for,” emphasises Samaria. Last week’s activities of the national society focused on stigma and discrimination against people living with HIV/AIDS and disseminating their message through the print and broadcast media. The World AIDS Day activities culminated on Saturday, 3 December with a soccer tournament, dancing competition, HIV-positive speakers and the announcement of the winners of an essay writing competition.