As part of an effort to highlight some of the most outstanding and least recognized participants in the frontline response to HIV and AIDS, the first-ever Red Ribbon Awards were handed out to five local community groups at the International AIDS Conference in Toronto last night.
Nearly 600 communities around the world were nominated for the $20,000 awards, which were organized by the UN Development Programme (UNDP) in partnership with the Joint UN Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS). Twenty finalist communities will also receive $5,000 each.
“The Red Ribbon Award is a great opportunity to bring communities together that have fought this disease,” said UNDP Administrator Kemal Dervis. “Sometimes they work in extremely difficult situations, in contexts of war or extreme poverty, and yet they have found ways despite these obstacles to make things happen, to generate some real success on the ground.”
Zimbabwe’s Girl Child Network, which counsels and supports girls in rural areas, including victims of sexual abuse, received the award for best practice in overcoming women’s equality from UNAIDS Special Representative HRH the Crown Princess Mette-Marit of Norway.
The Thai Network of People Living with HIV/AIDS, which successfully campaigned to bring anti-retroviral treatment into Thailand’s public-health system, was honored for its role in providing access to care, treatment and support.
The All Ukrainian Network of People Living with HIV/AIDS, a lobbying group, was rewarded for its efforts to address stigma and discrimination, secure treatment and organize support for people living with HIV/AIDS in Ukraine.
Durjoy Nari Shongo, a Bangladeshi project that educates, protects and advocates for sex workers and their families, received the award for its work in promoting prevention initiatives.
Mboole Rural Development, a youth-led community network in Zambia that sews school uniforms for AIDS orphans, was also honored last night.
The winners were chosen by an international jury that included the Norwegian Crown Princess, actress Naomi Watts, and former Irish President Mary Robinson.