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Canadians daring to do something different

October 6, 2009

Yesterday I wrote about the apathy towards HIV/AIDS programmes and funding taking place as the public grows fatigued with the subject and as attention is diverted to other pressing issues.

But in spite of our waning attention spans, there is an exciting campaign being put on by the Stephen Lewis Foundation that could help to re-invigorate the public’s interest and generate much needed funds for grassroots AIDS programmes in Africa.

Over the last decade, the Foundation’s namesake, Stephen Lewis, former United Nations special envoy for HIV/AIDS in Africa, has been launched to notoriety for his eloquent depictions of the virus’ effects on the continent, which often include unusually scathing remarks about world leaders who have neglected their public health duties. Lewis is also known for his work on HIV amongst women, recognizing their increased vulnerability to acquiring the virus, and also their significant burden in caring for those with the virus. In 2003, Lewis and his daughter Ilana launched the Foundation in order to raise much needed monies for grassroots HIV programmes within Africa. After several years of success, the Foundation has launched a new fundraising goal of $100 million over five years. In order to kick it off, the Foundation is putting on A Dare to Remember campaign, in which ordinary Canadians do something out of the ordinary—such as sky-diving, shaving their heads, or wearing clothes backwards to work—get pledges in support of their activity, and donating the money to the Foundation.

Such fundraising efforts are especially needed in the midst of the economic recession, in which already hurting HIV and health programmes are being further slashed in the name of cut-backs. Most notably, the Global Fund the Fight HIV, TB and Malaria, one of the largest funders of AIDS programmes, is currently facing up to a $5 billion shortfall. Such shortages severely impact treatment and prevention programmes, especially within Africa: the World Bank has gloomily predicted that “the global economic crisis will cause an addition 22 children to die per hour, throughout all of 2009… it’s possible that the toll will be twice that: an additional 400,000 child deaths, or an extra child dying every 79 seconds.”

It is therefore times like these when Canadians need to be re-invigorated in joining the fight against HIV, and A Dare to Remember offers a fun and easy way to help millions worldwide. Our apathy towards AIDS is often linked to the severe and overwhelming gravity of the problem, leaving each individual feeling small and helpless. But such an excuse is made null when you are invited to do something exciting and easy in order to raise essential funds. I have already encouraged my fellow Canada’s World bloggers to take the challenge; and I encourage Canada’s World readers to do the same. Go to http://www.adaretoremember.org for more information and to sign up, and—as the Foundation says—help to turn the tide against AIDS.

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