12th World AIDS Conference - Volunteers come out in force

The Bridge, the onsite print newspaper
28 June 1998

With 12,000 participants gathered for the 12th World AIDS Conference, organisers have assembled a group of more than 800 volunteers to help with virtually every aspect of the event.

"It goes from putting names into the database, to making schedules and helping to organise training sessions," explains Volunteer Coordinator Viola Krebs. "They're involved with the scientific and community programmes, working on reception and transportation, and staffing information desks on-site and in the city."

In a call for volunteers published earlier this year, the Conference promised a "unique opportunity to make a very personal contribution...to the fight against AIDS." The posting stressed that "the rewards of being a conference volunteer are many, including a deep sense of solidarity with participants and the exciting opportunity to meet interesting people from all over the world." Volunteers with no prior work experience will also receive a certificate to help them in their future job searches.

Marie-Hélène Saba, the very first volunteer to show up at the AIDS 98 Secretariat in downtown Geneva, says her involvement with the Conference was part of a long-term commitment.

"I see AIDS as a universal problem," she states. "A lot of progress has been made, but not enough. It's important to me to see progress made, so that we can find solutions and eventually develop a vaccine that will put the epidemic behind us."

As a public health nurse with HIV counselling experience in Kigali, Rwanda, Saba is particularly concerned about the impact of the virus in developing countries. People in the industrialised world tend to forget about diseases that don't affect them directly, she says, but "we can't say it's over when it's on the rise in so many countries. We have to give this our time and work on it with all our hearts until the epidemic is over."

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