All Peace Corps volunteers in Africa will be trained as AIDS educators, the Washington Post reported June 27.
The initiative marks the first time that the Peace Corps has committed all of its volunteers in a region – and not just its health specialists – to fighting a specific disease. The decision reflects increasing U.S. concern over the catastrophic AIDS epidemic in sub-Saharan Africa, where 22.5 million people have been infected with HIV and 14 million have died.
Volunteers will work to improve awareness of the disease and to help communities address some of the social and economic problems created by the epidemic.
Peace Corps Director Mark L. Schneider told the Post AIDS training will be provided to the 2,400 volunteers serving in Africa and to another 1,200 to be sent there in the next two years.
In addition, the Corps will send 50 new volunteers to eastern and southern Africa to do AIDS-related work. The organization also hopes to recruit 200 former volunteers who served in Africa to return as members of the Crisis Corps for six-month shifts working in AIDS care and prevention.
The U.S. Agency for International Development will provide $1.5 million over the next five years to support the initiative. More funding will come from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and the David and Lucile Packard Foundation.
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