With 13.5% of its adult population suffering from HIV/AIDS, Zambia is among the worst affected nations in sub-Saharan Africa. Yet, the problem is not just an issue of health. The prevalence of HIV/AIDS takes a serious toll on Zambia’s economy and social fabric. In a nation of 12 million, 690,000 children have been orphaned by the disease. Decreased productivity from sick workers hinders much needed economic growth; HIV/AIDS has even been cited as a major factor in recurrent food shortages in Southern Africa. It is no wonder, then, that Zambia is one of the poorest nations in Africa.
Despite these daunting figures, there is hope in Zambia. Between 2001 and 2009 the HIV infection rate in Zambia decreased by more than 25%. Anti-retroviral drugs are reaching more people, allowing them to live better, happier lives. Significantly, the stigma surrounding HIV/AIDS is declining; the result is more people being tested and more open discussion about the epidemic. One of the leaders in the fight against HIV/AIDS in Zambia has been Reaching HIV/AIDS Affected People with Integrated Development and Support (RAPIDS), a consortium of 6 NGOs funded by President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR). Designed as a 5-year program, RAPIDS has been instrumental in creating a large network of volunteers in Zambia to combat the spread of HIV/AIDS and help those already suffering from the disease. With its success, the network has expanded to provide support for other programs as well.