LUSAKA – The U.S. President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) in collaboration with the National AIDS Council honored 12 “Champions” striving for equal access to quality HIV services in Zambia today.
“We held this contest for the second year to draw attention to the extraordinary work people are doing throughout the country. These Champions are breaking down barriers to accessing HIV services,” said U.S. Deputy Chief of Mission David Young during his remarks at the award ceremony.
The 12 Champions were nominated by their peers, colleagues, and communities. They were selected for their passion, dedication, and commitment to reaching vulnerable and hard-to-reach individuals and communities with HIV information and services.
Unfortunately not all Zambians can access HIV services for a variety of reasons. This year Zambia commemorated World AIDS Day with the theme “Zambia@50 Towards Zero Stigma” acknowledging stigma as one significant barrier. In addition, groups such as young women, people living with HIV, people with disabilities, and prisoners are being left behind in the HIV response in Zambia and in other countries according to the UNAIDS 2014 Gap Report.
Zambia is well on its way to achieving an AIDS-free generation, but “we are not done yet,” as Secretary of State John Kerry said on World AIDS Day. We must ensure that no Zambians are left out of the HIV response.
The 12 Champions, representing health workers, civil society, and the media are tackling stigma and reaching many marginalized and hard-to-reach groups in innovative ways. Each Champion will be featured in a PEPFAR Zambia 2014 Calendar in addition to receiving a cash prize of $1,000 to donate to a local organization or community group of their choice. The Champions were honored in an official award ceremony at the Taj Pamodzi.
“There are many Champions in the fight against HIV and AIDS in Zambia. We need to honor champions, such as these 12, that are helping Zambia complete the last and most difficult road to achieving an AIDS-free generation in Zambia today and every day of the year,” said Acting PEPFAR Country Coordinator Dr. Tamu Daniel.