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Project: Launch of VSO-RAISA Phase II (2005-2009)
Sara Page, Southern Africa HIV/AIDS Information Dissemination Service (SAfAIDS )
November 02, 2005

"Good health is everyone's business- and it is our business as well" explained Rihanna Kola of Merck & Co Inc at the launch of VSO's RAISA II programme in Pretoria, South Africa. For the past two years, Merck & Co Inc has supported RAISA (Regional AIDS Initiative in Southern Africa) because it catalyses and implements strategies, which enhance the region's capacity to address HIV and AIDS and encourages public-private partnerships.

In Pretoria, South Africa, the second phase of the Regional AIDS Initiative of Southern Africa (RAISA-II) was launched by VSO (Volunteer Services Overseas) on Oct 24, 2005. Following the successful implementation of RAISA phase 1 (2000-2004), the new phase of the RAISA initiative aims to strengthen the capacity of government and civil society to develop and implement multi-sectoral responses to HIV/AIDS prevention, care and treatment. In this phase, a special focus will be placed on caring for orphans and vulnerable children, supporting people living with HIV/AIDS, and addressing gender in HIV/AIDS. RAISA-II will operate in six countries (Malawi, Mozambique, Namibia, South Africa, Zambia and Zimbabwe).

The three key strengths of RAISA, as noted by Professor Michael Kelly, a member of the RAISA-advisory board are 1) its encouragement of south to south peer learning, 2) its focus on grassroots organisations and 3) its dynamic human rights approach. RAISA uses development of partnerships, HIV/AIDS mainstreaming, capacity building and advocacy, as well as to distribution of small grants to strategic community based partners to support and enhance programmes and projects which support people living with HIV and AIDS and orphans and vulnerable children.

The launch was attended by a variety of partners and key stakeholders. Speaking at the launch, Dr. Roland Msiska from UNDP outlined the capacity gaps created in the region as a result of HIV and AIDS. He acknowledged the strength of the VSO–RAISA programme to address these challenges and to support countries to achieve set targets in the millennium development goals. The guest speaker, Ms Krisina Svensson, the Swedish Ambassador to Zimbabwe, Malawi and Mauritius, highlighted regional achievements but also described the ongoing challenges of stigma and gender inequalities. Ms Svensson encouraged RAISA-II and its partners to network and possibly link with currently existing programmes in the region.

The launch of RAISA II comes at the beginning of a three-day conference hosted by VSO. The theme of the conference is "You don't belong here- fear, blame and shame around HIV and AIDS". Representatives from a variety of organisations and VSO partners will present and discuss case studies, research and policy on HIV/AIDS related stigma and discrimination.

For more information about VSO-RAISA, please visit:

Visit the SAfAIDS fact sheet

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