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Rotary Action Group Helps Launch Major Public-Private HIV Prevention Initiative in Kenya

Rotarians for Fighting AIDS joins PEPFAR, Nike Foundation, Coca-Cola Africa Foundation and others in Partnership for an HIV-Free Generation

NAIROBI, Kenya, Dec. 15 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- A new public-private HIV-prevention initiative aimed at disadvantaged young people in Nairobi will rely on Rotarians for Fighting AIDS (RFFA) to help improve access to health care and provide educational and economic development opportunities.

Those efforts, in turn, are intended to help young people between the ages of 10-24 years be more receptive to the overall message of the campaign, Partnership for an HIV-Free Generation, which combines an array of evidence-based prevention approaches to promote and maintain healthy behaviors. The partnership was launched as a pilot project in Nairobi on December 5 and likely will expand into other countries if it hits its goal of reducing new HIV infections among Nairobi's young people by 50 percent over five years.

The initiative is led by the U.S. Government through the President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR). The campaign enables private sector leaders to bring their respective areas of expertise to the table with governments and non-governmental organizations in a coordinated effort to prevent the spread of HIV.

For example, one partner, a division of Warner Bros. Entertainment, has worked with PEPFAR to create an interactive, multi-player computer game, "Pamoja Mtaani" ("Together in the Hood") to show teens how to identify and avoid risky behaviors. Another partner, the toy manufacturer Hasbro, will carry the message to the younger set with specially designed toys and games.

For the Rotary action group, it means doing what Rotary clubs do best: mobilize volunteers at the grassroots level to provide practical solutions to local needs, in this case mentoring and counseling Nairobi's young people and networking with other stakeholders to improve conditions and services, including education and access to health care, within the community.

"RFFA members in Kenya will be able to provide the young people with job counseling, help them find employment opportunities and mentor them in starting up micro-businesses," says Marion Bunch, founder and current chair of RFFA, an international group of about 700 Rotary members from more than 40 countries who are committed to halting the HIV/AIDS epidemic.

"In addition, Rotary members who are key business leaders in Kenya intend to work with the government and others to improve the quality of Kenya's schools," says Bunch, a member of the Rotary Club of Dunwoody, Ga. She adds that Rotary members will also start local Rotary Community Corps (RCC) chapters in Nairobi to give non-Rotary members an opportunity to volunteer in support of the prevention campaign.

The other partnering organizations include Accenture, African Broadcast Media Partnership Against HIV/AIDS, APCO Worldwide, Girl Scouts of the USA, Global Business Coalition, Grassroots Soccer, Intel, Junior Achievement, Micato Safaris/American Share, Microsoft, Mitchell Silberberg & Knupp LLP, MTV Staying Alive Foundation, TechnoServe, The Coca Cola Africa Foundation, The Draper Richards Foundation, and The Nike Foundation.

"Never before have so many top quality, private sector organizations banded together with the U.S. Government to make a difference in reducing HIV infection among youth in Africa," says Bunch. "RFFA is proud to be a part of this leading-edge program with the potential to dramatically reduce the HIV infection rate among young people in Kenya and, eventually, all of sub-Saharan Africa."

And for Bunch, the fight is personal. She lost her grown son Jerry to AIDS in 1994.

"My HIV/AIDS work through Rotary has given me the ability to take the personal tragedy of losing my son and turn it into the blessing of being able to help thousands of children," she says. "To me, it was clearly something I was meant to do."

SOURCE Rotary International
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