Working to tackle worldwide AIDS epidemic

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EVERY year, the international community comes together to mark ‘World AIDS Day’ on December 1; a global event which aims to raise awareness of HIV and AIDS. It’s hard to believe but 2011 now marks 30 years since AIDS was first identified, and real progress has been made.

Recently I met with Brendan Hanlon, the chief executive of Horsham HIV/AIDS charity AVERT, and I would now like to expand a little on the ground covered in that meeting as promised in an earlier Footnote.

We talked about the work the charity does to improve access to education, treatment and care, and also about the amount of work that still needs to be done to address the epidemic worldwide.

One of the topics we discussed was how AVERT uses the internet to take HIV/AIDS education to a huge audience. In fact, their educational website is accessed by over 30mn people a year from around the world – an astounding outreach!

www.avert.org contains a wide variety of interesting, factual and up-to-date information pages on HIV and AIDS. It’s a great educational tool, which is also interactive. It has pages on the history of the epidemic, FAQs, and also quizzes and videos. Thanks to the internet, a Horsham-based charity can now reach millions of people around the world with information that might just save their lives.

World AIDS Day is also a good time of the year for the public to come together and raise money for the AIDS charity’s great work. Brendan explained how AVERT uses donations to support community projects in South Africa and Malawi, which are two of the countries most severely affected by the AIDS epidemic.

Their projects are providing food for young children orphaned by AIDS, help for the carers of people with AIDS and better access to HIV testing, treatment and care. I’ve heard so much about the progress that has been made in managing the AIDS epidemic; but listening to stories about how the virus continues to affect the most vulnerable does raise the issue about how much still needs to be done.

I’m hoping that, diary permitting, I’ll be able to participate in some fundraising collections for AVERT in Horsham. The charity is always looking for fundraisers and volunteers to help raise money for their work. If you’re able to volunteer to collect in aid of AVERT’s AIDS work, have a look at: www.avert.org/fundraising.htm.

FRANCIS MAUDE

MP for Horsham