Bridging the gap left by the ravages of AIDS

CSTD travels to Africa

It’s a stunning figure. Sub-Saharan Africa is home to about 12 per cent of the world’s population, yet accounts for more than 60 per cent of the AIDS-infected population. In fact, 11 per cent of people aged 15 to 49 are infected with HIV, the virus that causes AIDS, according to UNAIDS, the joint United Nations program on HIV/AIDS.

In 2005, two million people died of AIDS in Sub-Saharan Africa. To put that into perspective, 27,000 people died of AIDS in North America in 2005.

“There’s a whole adult population that’s been decimated by the disease, leaving the grannies and the children,” said Lynn Johnston, president of the Canadian Society for Training and Development (CSTD). “But it’s also left a huge gap in terms of professionals in all sorts of areas.”

This was the message that Stephen Lewis, the UN special envoy for HIV/AIDS in Africa, brought to CSTD at last year’s conference, where he was given the president’s award for his work raising awareness about HIV/AIDS in Africa. He challenged CSTD to step in and help make up for the loss of teachers, medical staff and others trained to provide societal and institutional support.

The training association has partnered with Valley Trust, a non-profit welfare organization in Durban, South Africa, that works closely with a health centre to provide health promotion to address the root causes of disease. The association plans to send five trainers to Durban next spring to provide training workshops for health promotion facilitators who work in the area of HIV/AIDS prevention.

“We’re hoping to assist on education awareness around AIDS. If we can help those who are tasked with that education piece provide a better learning experience, a more effective learning experience, that would be wonderful. That’s the goal”

The trainers will each provide a five-day workshop to help the South African facilitators make the most of their AIDS prevention material. The workshops will be amended from Nova Scotia’s St. Francis Xavier University’s diploma in adult education program.

“It will be focused on how adults learn and how best to transfer knowledge and skills to those adults,” said Johnston.

The trainers haven’t been chosen yet, as the committee still needs to determine exactly which competencies are required, but Johnston isn’t worried about finding enough volunteers.

“We have no lack of participants willing to go, it’s wonderful. I think we have 60 people on the list who said they would like to be part of this. It’s really overwhelming how wonderful the response has been so far,” she said.

CSTD needs to raise about $40,000 for the initiative, called “Our Bridge to Africa.” At the annual conference in Toronto last month, vendors, participants and speakers got behind the cause. Keynote speaker Marshall Goldsmith incorporated a fundraising activity into his speech, raising $400 in less than an hour. Many of the vendors held silent auctions. So far, CSTD has raised about $23,000.

Any funds not used this time will go toward the next initiative. CSTD identified two other organizations it could partner with — one in Malawi and one in Kenya.

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