‘Be a voice, not an echo’

ONE at Chicago AIDS Run 2012

5,500 people died of AIDS today. These are mothers, fathers, daughters, brothers, sisters, and friends whose stories are often left in the shadows of oblivion. Their voices rendered silent from the ability to live full and productive lives —5,500 voices silenced by a preventable disease.

Photo caption: ONE Regional Director Tzviatko Chiderov with Congressman Mike Quigley, D-Ill.

ONE often challenges its members to be “a voice, not an echo,” when it comes to the fight against extreme poverty and preventable diseases. On Sunday, September 30th at the Chicago AIDS Run and Walk, I accepted that challenge and used my voice to raise awareness about HIV/AIDS. I was able to voice the impact that US lifesaving AIDS programs have on communities and regions all around the globe.

ONE regional director Tzviatko Chiderov with Congressman Mike Quigley (D-IL)

US Representative Mike Quigley, D-Ill., was in attendance, showing his support at the Chicago AIDS Run and Walk. Congressman Quigley has been actively involved in the fight against HIV/AIDS by supporting legislation that focuses on the prevention of HIV/AIDS.

At the race, the ONE team informed people about global HIV/AIDS initiatives like the Global Fund and PEPFAR. The Global Fund is a multilateral institution funded by several countries, including the US, that increases resources for HIV/AIDS to countries that have great programs but need funding to implement them. And the US President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) is the US government’s bilateral initiative to help save the lives of those suffering from HIV/AIDS in 15 focus countries with some of the largest AIDS burdens. Between PEPFAR and the Global Fund, 8.6 million people are receiving antiretroviral treatment and millions more are benefiting from programs to help prevent the spread of AIDS to individuals and from pregnant mothers to their unborn babies.

With each signature that was collected at the event, we were able to add volume to the voices and advocacy surrounding HIV/AIDS. These initiatives collectively are strengthened through the support of people like you; a petition represents a shared voice. This year, ONE members like me are fighting for $1.65 billion for the Global Fund and $4.24 billion for PEPFAR towards the global goal of ushering in the ‘Beginning of the End of AIDS.’

ONE voice was heard here today. I am a daughter, sister, and friend who will continue to lend my voice and advocate on behalf of these global justice issues. Progress is being made and it’s up to us to build the momentum. Through advocacy we have the power to elevate the issue before policy makers and prevent the muting voices of those who are infected or affected by diseases like HIV/AIDS.

Together we have a unified voice—divided we are just an echo.

-Vanessa Avila, ONE member, Chicago