Being positive

Bangkok part II has officially started! After a rather strange work experience, I have now moved on with a new organisation, new studio apartment, and new goals and perspectives in mind. I don’t regret the past six months – I have learned a lot and met a bunch of great people on the way too.

More importantly, I learned how to remain positive in negative times:
1. Acknowledge that a situation isn’t perfect, but instead of complaining or worrying – do something about it. Make plans and goals for positive change.
2. Appreciate your friends who are there for you and who have shown great support in bad times. Be lucky and blessed to have them in your life.
3. Avoid negativity, or at least try to keep it at a distance. When you choose to fill your life with positivity – thoughts, inspiration and actions – it is likely that it will all come back to you.

Not only did I get a new job at ECPAT International, I was also offered an online campaigning position as a UN Volunteer at the Center for African Affairs and Global Peace (CAAGLOP). In this capacity, I provide online support for the Campaign for Peace and HIV/AIDS issues in Africa. Now this is a whole other aspect of ‘being positive’.

Worldwide, there are about 33 million people infected with HIV. Two-thirds thereof are in Sub-Saharan Africa. Although progress has been made, as many as 14.9 million children from sub-Saharan Africa still lost one or both parents to AIDS in 2010 alone – a number equal to the whole population of Malawi, or 89% of the population of my native country The Netherlands.

Problems of HIV/AIDS are exacerbated by poverty, illiteracy, weak educational and public health systems, stigmas, and the low social status of women. The HIV/AIDS epidemic in Africa is the most serious present threat to human development. It is depleting the most educated, energetic and productive segment of African societies and it is draining human capital. In addition, the crisis puts heavy pressure on limited infrastructure and resources, negatively impacting productivity and overall economic growth.

In order to tackle the HIV/AIDS epidemic, HIV/AIDS needs to be ‘mainstreamed’ in all aspects of government and policy-making. Programmes should be holistic and inclusive, meaning that NGOs and communities should play a role while also focusing on poverty alleviation and human rights. Emphasis should be placed on know-your-status campaigns, availability of HIV testing and condoms, accessibility and availability of information, ARVs preventing mother-to-child transmissions, and the diminishing of stigmas and taboos. Education is important to help fighting stigmas and empowering vulnerable groups. Attention should also be paid to behavioural change. Moral agendas such as respect for women, honesty and compassion for all, are indispensable elements to overcome the epidemic. Successful policies must include sufficient resources and infrastructure, information, confrontation and education, but most of all, leadership and determination. Leaders must stop denying the causality between HIV and AIDS, accept the consequences of HIV/AIDS and be determined to fight it. The key is political will – without it, all is lost.

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