COMMUNICATIONS NEWS: WORLD AIDS DAY - Red Cross societies launch fund to help Aids-affected staff

The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies is launching a fund to pay for anti-retroviral drugs for its staff and volunteers who have Aids. Most of the workers are in Africa.

The Red Cross estimates that at least 200,000 people within its organisation are living with HIV-Aids. It says many of these people are working as care-givers to people who are sick with the disease, while they themselves are dying for lack of treatment.

The head of the International Federation's global HIV-Aids programme, Bernard Gardiner, said this threatens the organisation's ability to carry out its worldwide humanitarian operations.

"We cannot do our work without keeping these people alive," he said.

"It is a matter of organisational survival. We have been losing far too many people. Our capacity to serve the most vulnerable is being seriously undermined."

The Masambo Fund is named after a long-serving staff member of the Zimbabwe Red Cross who died from Aids two years ago. Money for the fund will be raised through annual contributions by each Red Cross and Red Crescent society. No money will be diverted from humanitarian operations.

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