Red Cross calls for end to Aids stigma
The Red Cross, founded by Swiss Henri Dunant, has marked its world day by calling for an end to discrimination against the victims of Aids.
The international Red Cross says an estimated 40 million people around the world infected are HIV-positive. Among those infected every year are some half a million babies.
The campaign, which kicked off on Wednesday, has the slogan: "The truth about Aids. Pass it on..." and will continue for the next two years.
"Many mothers prefer not to have the HIV test, or collect the results, or act on them out of fear of being stigmatised if they become infected," said Didier Cherpitel, secretary general of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies.
The stigma attached to HIV/Aids also explains why an estimated 500,000 drug users are infected each year, according to the Red Cross. Many of them are denied access to clean injecting material, increasing the chances of spreading infection to other drug users or sexual partners.
The Federation has highlighted Eastern Europe as a particularly vulnerable region. The number of HIV-infected people has increased there by 426 per cent in the past five years.
The Red Cross and the Red Crescent societies are represented in 178 countries, supported by 97 million volunteers and members around the world.
The International Committee of the Red Cross, headquartered in Geneva, is the more visible part of the organisation. It is operational in 80 countries, and has a staff of around 12,000.
Much of its work involves humanitarian aid and the budget for 2002 is nearly SFr916 million ($571 million).
The Red Cross was founded by Dunant in 1863.
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