Aids Weekly Plus
Community leaders, who represent internally displaced people in Yemen’s Harad district, are meeting more frequently because of the pressing problems brought about by inferior living conditions in the camps. The Harad camps hold more than 130,000 people affected by Yemen’s long civil unrest. To stay alive, camp residents walk to Saudi Arabia’s border, hoping to find better economic opportunities. Others work at construction, fishing, and agriculture jobs, relying on daily wages to survive. Still others depend on the host local community to provide them with food.
Most people, however, are not aware of their vulnerability to HIV infection, and they occasionally turn to high-risk behaviors to meet their basic needs. Local authorities, worried about the lack of HIV information, have joined with the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) and UNAIDS to begin an HIV awareness program for displaced people. Dr. Majed Al Gonaid, deputy minister of health, declares, “We know that HIV is escalating and can grow into a major epidemic—as we have seen this happen in other countries.”
The HIV awareness program is funded by OCHA and implemented by the local non-governmental organizations Women Association for Sustainable Development and the For All Foundation for Development, in partnership with the UNAIDS country coordinator. The program will provide HIV prevention training to 20 female and male youth peer educators from the camps and host communities. The program will include awareness-raising classes about HIV, sexually transmitted infections, and life skills. To eliminate the gender-based violence in addition to the stigma and discrimination faced by camp residents, the program will conduct sensitization sessions with community and religious leaders and local council members. The program also will provide voluntary HIV counseling and testing service.
At the 30th UNAIDS Program Coordinating Board in June 2012, a report on AIDS, security, and humanitarian response highlighted that a major purpose of UNAIDS work and of its partners and cosponsors has been mainstreaming AIDS into an overall humanitarian intervention and integrating it as a cross-cutting issue. The report urges governments and organizations to provide internally displaced persons and refugees with HIV prevention services and access to antiretroviral therapy, as well as plans addressing broader issues such as gender-based violence.