Special CDs and Event in Fighting AIDS

0
12

By Frederick Philander WINDHOEK Today marks World AIDS Day and the launch of NamibiAlive! – a compilation of CDs featuring awareness messages and songs by popular Namibian artists. CDs will be distributed free to truck- and combi-drivers throughout Namibia. United States Peace Corps volunteers, Amy Taylor and Dan Cwirka, produced this AIDS awareness CD to target long-distance drivers – a population with a high risk of contracting HIV/AIDS due to their mobility and expendable income. Taylor and Cwirka saw the need to reach out to this group during a combi ride from Windhoek to northern Namibia, where they have worked as volunteer teachers since December 2004. “NamibiAlive! wasn’t about making a CD for the world market; it was about putting together a CD of music and messages that Namibians would want to play,” said Cwirka. “There is a clear need to raise awareness among truckers because some of the highest HIV prevalence rates in Namibia are often found in transit centres and along major transportation routes.” Taylor and Cwirka were supported in their project by a great number of individuals and organizations – private, non-profit, and government alike – who were taken by the duo’s enthusiasm and drive to combat HIV/AIDS. They secured $3ÃÆ’Æ‘ÀÃ…ÃÆ”šÃ‚ 000 from the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief. Under PEPFAR, the US government has provided over N$124-million to Namibia between 2004 and 2006 for HIV/AIDS prevention, care and treatment. Taylor and Cwirka also raised nearly $5ÃÆ’Æ‘ÀÃ…ÃÆ”šÃ‚ 000 from family and friends in the United States to assist in the production of NamibiAlive! “AIDS is not just an African problem. It affects all of us regardless of race, nationality or sex,” said Taylor. “We are blessed to have people at home who understand this.” Other international and local donors recognized the importance of reaching out to this high-risk group and supported the effort. The German Technical Cooperation provided funding to cover production costs of 3ÃÆ’Æ‘ÀÃ…ÃÆ”šÃ‚ 500 CDs. Namibia’s Ministry of Works, Transport, and Communication has pledged to distribute the CDs through its HIV/AIDS workplace programmes, and its presence at border crossings and checkpoints. The Social Marketing Association (SMA), creator of the highly successful New Start campaign, helped with the promotion of the album by designing and distributing NamibiAlive! posters and stickers. SMA will also use its outreach expertise to distribute the CDs to the more remote regions of Namibia. At the local level, socially conscious artists donated their songs and recorded personal messages for the purpose of AIDS awareness. Twelve of the 14 messages were recorded by local producer, Christian Poloni, who offered his studio and technical skills at a discounted rate. “It is nice to be involved with a project that promotes local music and heightens AIDS awareness,” remarked Poloni. A promotional video featuring the NamibiAlive! artists and their messages will be screened at the Sanlam/NBC Music Awards, which coincides with the launch and World AIDS Day. “The NambiAlive! launch is, in fact, a World AIDS Day celebration,” said Jeff Millington, Peace Corps Namibia Country Director. “It shines as an example of what can happen when different nations of the world come together to combat AIDS.” This morning the UNAM AIDS Unit will also present a day-long public event on the disease under the global theme: “Stop AIDS – Keep the Promise”, and the Namibian theme: “Zero Tolerance of Hiv Infections among the Youth”. “The Unam HIV/Aids unit hopes to have World Aids Day 2006 serve as an occasion for introspection of the institution and its community. The aim is to create “awareness” in a participatory manner. This will be done by bringing all categories of staff together to deliberate on HIV and AIDS-related issues,” said a statement from Unam. A testimony by an HIV-positive Namibian known as Roswita will form part of the highlights of the day. Her message is straightforward and encouraging. “HIV is not a death sentence. It is a manageable disease. Early detection allows an individual to make lifestyle and health choices. Roswita will talk of her initial suffering and her overcoming. She is commemorating the day with the Unam community. The lighting of candles will underline the spiritual aspect inherent in any healing or positive conception of life,” it said. According to the statement, the “zero tolerance” in the national theme underlines that the time is ripe to attack HIV/AIDS where it is actually spreading and reproducing. “Though many Namibians seem to have adequate HIV/Aids knowledge and awareness, prevention remains a great concern. Successful containment of the damages caused by AIDS will only be possible if the number of new infections decrease. Since students have left the campus by the end of November, the day will be focusing primarily on the staff, both academic and non-academic.” Unam has a newly-established HIV Coordination Unit (HCU), headed by Dr Scholastika Iipinge from the Faculty of Medicine, and is directly attached to the VCs office. WADÃÆ’Æ‘ÀÃ…ÃÆ”šÃ‚ 2006 offers the opportunity to present the objectives and Action Plan of the HCU to a wider audience.