World AIDS Day 2007: African Credit Unions Raise Awareness
Free Testing Sites and Innovative Education Exemplify Leadership
A new peer leader receives her certificate for completing the Mwalimu Stop AIDS peer education training program in Kenya.
MADISON, Wis.—This Saturday, December 1,
World AIDS Day serves to recognize the 33.2
million people worldwide living with HIV/AIDS.
This year’s theme, Stop AIDS. Keep the
Promise-Leadership, challenges people to take the
lead at every level to combat and overcome the
disease. Credit unions around the world are
getting involved, and some are leading the fight
against HIV/AIDS in their communities.
Some 2.5 million people were newly infected with
the HIV virus in 2007. Sub-Saharan Africa remains
the most affected region, home to more than
two-thirds (68%) of all people infected with HIV.
As the disease spreads, the economic and social
impact is devastating in countries where many
people struggle to get by on less than US$1 per
“As trusted, member-owned organizations in their
communities, credit unions are effective vehicles
for raising awareness, sharing information and
mitigating the spread of HIV/AIDS through
prevention,” said Pete Crear, World Council of
Credit Unions (WOCCU) president and CEO.
The HIV/AIDS project committee of Sibanye Cape SACCO in Cape Town,
South Africa, meets monthly to discuss their progress and brainstorm
new ways to share information about HIV/AIDS with their community.
Several African credit unions (known as savings
and credit co-operatives, SACCOs) are working hard
to show the world that leadership and education
are making a difference in the fight against
Mwalimu SACCO Members Educate a
More than 3 million people in Kenya, including 16%
of the adult population, are HIV-positive. Mwalimu
SACCO serves secondary school teachers in the
country and is one of the largest SACCOs in Kenya.
WOCCU’s USAID-funded Cooperative Development
Program, in partnership with JHPIEGO, an
international health organization affiliated with
The Johns Hopkins University, supported the launch
of an HIV/AIDS peer educator program with Mwalimu
SACCO in 2006. The peer education model is based
on the idea that groups of members can be trained
to effect change in others. Peer educators are
trained to be opinion leaders and act as agents of
change by disseminating information and
influencing their communities.
Mwalimu SACCO members—teachers by profession—are
ideal peer leaders because they are well respected
and well positioned to disseminate the information
through multiple channels, such as schools and
classrooms, parent/teacher associations and
extracurricular activities. To date, there are 27
certified peer leaders. Each leader trains five
peer educators who then continue the “cascade of
Peer educators seize various opportunities to
raise awareness. They discuss safe sex practices
at the national exam briefing for high school
students and highlight basic HIV/AIDS facts at
local drama festivals for students and teachers.
These activities help dispel the stigma
surrounding the disease and encourage positive
Sibanye Cape SACCO Provides Free Testing on
World AIDS Day
In February 2006, Shameem Gaffoor, a
Strathmore-WOCCU African Management Institute
(SWAMI) graduate and loan officer for Sibanye Cape
SACCO in South Africa, formed an HIV/AIDS
committee comprised of one board member and three
SACCO staff members. The committee formed
relationships with other non-profits in Cape Town
to gather information and directly pass it on to
their members. It was the first program of its
kind in South Africa.
Gaffoor and her team believe everyone should have
access to testing and know his or her status.
“Those living with HIV/AIDS deserve to be loved,
cared for and treated with respect,” Shameem
emphasized, and her committee’s efforts have made
an impact on the way people address the virus.
To celebrate World AIDS Day, Sibanye Cape SACCO is
providing free access to a testing facility for
its members. The SACCO is also distributing
brochures with facts on the difference between HIV
and AIDS and presenting on the devastating effects
of the pandemic.
Since 1988, World AIDS Day has been observed
annually on December 1 and is dedicated to raising
awareness of the HIV/AIDS pandemic. December is
World AIDS month. For ideas on raising awareness
about World AIDS month in your community, visit www.worldaidscampaign.info.
World Council of Credit Unions is the global trade association and development agency for credit unions. World Council promotes the sustainable development of credit unions and other financial cooperatives around the world to empower people through access to high quality and affordable financial services. World Council advocates on behalf of the global credit union system before international organizations and works with national governments to improve legislation and regulation. Its technical assistance programs introduce new tools and technologies to strengthen credit unions' financial performance and increase their outreach.
World Council has implemented more than 290 technical assistance programs in 71 countries. Worldwide, 56,000 credit unions in 101 countries serve 200 million people. Learn more about World Council's impact around the world at www.woccu.org.
Contact: Rebecca Carpenter
Organization: World Council of Credit Unions