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Wednesday 1 December 2004
Combating the AIDS pandemic
Written by Louise Clifford, site user
Students at school in Ghana
Students at school in Ghana

Are education programmes enough?

Birmingham University student Louise Clifford is making a difference in Ghana.

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Being Positive
Ian from Birmingham has HIV. The businessman talks about the life-changing experience and stigma associated with 'being positive'.

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AIDS - a pandemic
About Glona
Who am I?
The future
Are education programmes enough?

AIDS - a pandemic

Currently an estimated 37.8 million people are living with HIV/AIDS, a disproportionate number of cases in developing countries. Many are experiencing an exponential growth of the disease and it is thought that more than 60 million people will be infected by 2005. A cure is presently not available, but prevention is.

Owing to the rapid onset of the pandemic, and the sub-optimal allocation of resources, prevention programmes have been produced without baseline research, or the benefit of pilot projects. As a result, many prevention programmes are ineffective.

A comparatively low incidence of AIDS in Ghana does not mean it has escaped the pandemic. Over 3% of the population are victims to the disease. Put in context, this is a greater prevalence than diabetes has in the UK.

Village in Ghana
Village in Ghana

Combining efforts with a Ghanaian charity, Glona, we have started a grassroots project assessing the knowledge, attitudes and risk-taking behaviour of 15-39 year olds, with respect to HIV infection.

Based on the results of our initial survey, and an extensive literature review of past prevention efforts, an education programme has been developed to 'fill the gaps' in people's knowledge and address issues concerning attitudes and behaviour.

With the use of drama, quizzes and other interactive teaching methods, 200 villagers from four communities will take part in the three-day programme. To assess the programme's effectiveness, a follow-up survey will be undertaken three months later to measure changes in knowledge, attitudes, and risk-taking behaviour.

We are now wishing to implement the programme, but of course this needs money. To raise funds we are organising an auction on eBay starting on World AIDS Day (1 December), running for one week. Items in the auction include a Nicky Clarke Salon haircut (in The Mailbox), a signed Coldplay picture, theatre tickets to the Birmingham Rep, and more.

About Glona

From the first day I walked through the office door, I experienced something that most who are greeted with Glona's warm welcome experience - a real sense of compassion and admiration.

A small charity, Glona boasts incredible achievements in the areas of education, health promotion, and AIDS awareness. With limited resources, great things have been achieved.

It is one of the few places where I have experienced the true meaning of 'selflessness', and have taken comfort in the thought that, sometimes, people really do give something for nothing.

Louise with William
Louise with William

Driven solely by their desire to improve the lives of those less fortunate, William (executive director), Daniel (president), Emanuel, and the other volunteers are committed to social and community development.

Their aim is simple: "To create a long lasting awareness in the community so together we will all make footprints in the sands of time".

Who am I?

I'm a medical student in my fifth year at Birmingham University. Currently intercalating in Biomedical Science, I now have the opportunity to pursue my interest in public health in developing countries.

Having worked with Glona twice before, and knowing their intention to develop the AIDS awareness branch of their charity, I knew that this was where I wanted to focus my interests - and so the project developed.

The future

This is what excites me the most! If successful, Glona intend to repeat this project in further areas of Ghana.

Beyond this, my intention is to set up a charity in this country with a link to Glona. I am further looking to work with InterVol, an international volunteering administration at Birmingham University that acts as an umbrella organisation for a selection of charities. Its activities include organising fundraising events, and sponsoring students on overseas projects.

If successful, the AIDS programme may be used in other countries such as Uganda.

Are education programmes enough?

Pupils
Pupils in Ghana

On their own, probably not. The war on AIDS calls for both prevention and cure. Only governments and the drug companies have the resources for the latter but as this project will hopefully demonstrate, the hard work of charities like Glona will play an important if largely unsung part.

Written by Louise Clifford

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