An epidemic of immense proportions is taking place in Africa that takes the lives of millions of people every year. HIV/AIDS, which is the leading cause of death today in the continent, kills more people than any natural disaster, war, famine, illness or disease. Yet whereas fighting droughts and bringing military conflicts to an end are fairly difficult, the spread of AIDS could be radically reduced through some relatively inexpensive measures.
The facts are overwhelming. Inhabited by just over 14.7% of the world’s population, Africa is estimated to have more than 60% of the AIDS-infected population. In countries like Tanzania, where I visited three years ago, almost 9% of the entire adult population is living with AIDS. While in Swaziland, a small country located just to the east of South Africa, an incredible 61% of all deaths are caused by HIV/AIDS, and have lowered life expectancy from 61 years in 2000 to only 32 years today.
These deaths don’t only cause incredible suffering, they are eliminating an entire generation of teachers, farmers, scientists and most importantly, parents. This is leaving millions of children without families to fend for themselves, pushing more young people into poverty.
The best way to reduce the spread of AIDS is three fold: education, education and education. We may find a full cure for the AIDS virus one day, but until then, we have to take preventative measures, and this means teaching young people what AIDS is, how it spreads and what actions they can take to avoid catching the disease, and this means education.
Uganda is the leading success story when it comes to AIDS prevention and education. In the early 1990s, almost 15% of citizens were HIV positive. That number is now about 5%. The country accomplished this through a massive awareness and education programme started by President Yoweri Museveni and the Ministry of Health.
Lack of resources is an obvious challenge for many developing countries, although a great deal of aid is distributed throughout developing countries with high HIV/AIDS rates. Every dollar counts, and it is amazing what just a little bit of money can accomplish.
I am currently applying for the Do Something Award, a highly popular, American-based charitable award that provides the Grand Prize Winner $100,000 to spend on their own initiative. I passed the first phase of the application and I’m currently preparing my application for the second and final stage. My project calls for teams of young people from Africa to teach AIDS prevention and education to children throughout the continent.
Students always respond more to young people their own age, and that’s the key to this project and its success. I believe that this kind of education will engage and influence young people in Africa like never before, and lead to a sustainable decline in the AIDS epidemic throughout the continent. For the last three years, I have spoken to dozens of organizations throughout Canada, raising funds for this program. I firmly believe we will be able to start the project in Africa very soon – before it’s too late.
“Together We Can Make A Difference”