By Alicia Michael, President of Rotarians for Family Health & AIDS Prevention (RFHA)
As three young ladies entered the Rotary Family Health Days camp site, I noticed their bright green school uniforms and their even brighter smiles. I was at one of 380 sites operating for three days across Ghana, Nigeria, South Africa and Uganda this past October. These young ladies had every appearance of typical teenage girls on their way home from school on a Friday afternoon.
However, most would find that there was nothing typical about this scene. I’m not certain what I expected as I approached the girls, but I am certain it was not a conversation I had ever encountered before. I introduced myself as they politely shook my hand and giggled a bit. They told me their names and informed me they were 17 years old and were best friends.
They had already been greeted by some of the Rotarian volunteers and were making their way to one of the tables offering free health services.
I quickly learned that one of the girls had visited the camp two days earlier. She had come alone that day for one specific purpose – to be tested for HIV. I then discovered the reason for her return; to bring her best friends for HIV testing as well. She had been counseled during her first visit on the importance of knowing her status and had returned to school to share what she learned with her friends.
Today, 1 December, is World AIDS Day. Every year, this day gives each of us an opportunity to unite in the fight against HIV/AIDS. It is estimated that over 34 million people have the virus, proving there is still so much work to be done. People around the world continue to lack education on how to protect themselves suffer from stigma and discrimination in the workplace and their communities, and have inadequate access to much improved medical resources that can produce a healthier and more productive life.
Oftentimes we hear stories such as the one about these three school girls and the message simply moves through us. Our fast-paced society has made it easy for us to overlook the significance of these individual moments.
While Rotary Family Health Days was able to offer hundreds of free health resources and educational services to nearly 300,000 citizens across Africa in only three days, we were also able to impact the lives of these three young ladies on a much deeper level. One of them became a powerful leader amongst her peers, convincing others of the need for better education leading to a more protected future. Those who were impacted by her leadership were able to receive peace of mind and hopefully the desire to become leaders in their own right.
Rotarians for Family Health and Aids Prevention (RFHA) is an international group of Rotarians, their family members, program participants and alumni committed to saving and improving lives of children and families who lack access to preventive health care and education. Interested in joining the RFHA team or participating in a Global Grant supporting Rotary Family Health Days? Visit www.rfha.org to contact or learn more.