Meet ‘HIV resilience heroes’ – leading the charge in the global fight against AIDS

June 18, 2020
Musongole Mutambo, right, with fellow peer educators Melvin Malambo and Kennedy Zulu, before heading to the streets. (Photo: Brian Clark/Pact)

Musongole Mutambo is a 29-year-old mechanic in Zambia. Several years ago, after watching relative after relative succumb to HIV, he had a conversation with his mother about what might be done to stop the disease. It starts with you, she told him.

He took the advice to heart. Today, with support, training and supplies from international organizations, Musongole is an HIV peer educator. He spends his days in some of Lusaka’s toughest neighborhoods talking to people on the streets about the disease’s causes and risk factors, helping them to get tested then and there.

To me, he represents so many unsung heroes worth celebrating. If we have learned anything about the fight to end HIV and AIDS – an epidemic that has now claimed more than 32 millions lives – it is that we must strike at the roots, community by community, using all available tools.

This is why Pact, USAID, PEPFAR and other international partners in this global effort are focused on building up local responses to HIV and AIDS around the world. Rather than delivering limited-time aid, we are strengthening local knowledge, skills and resources that are enabling local people and organizations to lead the way, from community volunteers and nonprofits to public health and social service agencies. Every day in their own communities, from Jakarta to Johannesburg, they are providing education, prevention services, testing and treatment that together are stopping new infections and enabling people who are HIV-positive to live long, productive lives. They have turned what was once a death sentence into a manageable chronic disease, and they have built holistic, “whole community” responses.

We take this approach for many reasons, but mostly because it creates impact that will last, no matter what new challenges arise – it creates resilience. The Covid-19 pandemic is an important example of why this matters. As the virus hits developing communities around the world, many of the resources they will draw on to stop it – community health education, contact tracing, clinical knowledge and services – are ones they built up to combat HIV.

Especially when you read and watch some of their stories, we think you’ll agree that these local people and organizations at the heart of the global HIV response are resilience heroes.

Meet Musongole Mutambo and other HIV resilience heroes at