Ghanaian AIDS advocate cycles the globe to raise awareness and leadership on HIV
10 August 2011
AIDS advocate Shisu Alhaji Yakubu of Ghana has biked 238 000 kilometres to raise awareness about HIV. After travelling to New York to participate in the UN General Assembly High Level Meeting on AIDS that took place from 8-10 June, Mr Yakubu says he will now embark on a bike ride from Vienna to Washington, DC to attend the next International AIDS Conference to be held in the United States in 2012.
Mr Yakubu attended the UN High Level Meeting specifically to meet UNAIDS Executive Director Michel Sidibé. “I came here all the way from Africa to say thank you,” he explained. In addition to meeting Mr Sidibé, he cycled to New York City to demand world leaders participating in the High Level Meeting to join forces with the voices calling for a stronger AIDS response.
“‘In unity lies strength,’ so the old adage goes,” said Mr Yakubu. “I would therefore earnestly appeal to our leaders and people living in West Africa to unite against the stigma attached to the disease,” he said.
In unity lies strength. I would therefore earnestly appeal to our leaders and people living in West Africa to unite against the stigma attached to the disease
Shisu Alhaji Yakubu, Ghanaian AIDS advocate
Mr Yakubu developed an interest for voluntary work when he was still in school, after having seen the difficulties faced by children orphaned by AIDS. When Planned Parenthood Association of Ghana selected him to represent his region of Brong-Ahafo in mid-western Ghana at the First National Youth Conference in Akropong, Mr Yakubu decided to harness his "voluntary spirit" in this direction.
During the youth conference, he says, he realized the alarming rate at which HIV was spreading in Ghana and other sub-Saharan countries. "Something must be done," he decided. "It was about time non-governmental organizations, community-based organizations, religious organizations and civil society all came together and joined the response. HIV is not a health issue any more. It's an issue about you and me."
He then chose cycling as an innovative way to raise awareness as well as a method to entertain, mobilize and encourage the involvement of communities as well as media houses.
In 2000, he organized an AIDS bike campaign in the Techiman district of Ghana, visiting schools, churches, mosques, football fields, and local radio stations. "Most of my work is concentrated towards my community, region, country and West Africa," he said.
In 2001, he embarked on a three-month nationwide bike campaign with the theme of behavioural change among young people towards safer sex. The campaign was aimed at increasing awareness about HIV and to encourage condom use. "Personally, I have a passion for humanity," he professed.
Mr Yakubu was also part of a 2009 "Know Your Status" campaign organized along with the American Peace Corps to address issues of stigma attached to testing for HIV, as well as to show support for people living with HIV.
With less than a year to go to the XIX International AIDS Conference, Mr Zakubu has many more miles to travel and people to meet to share his message that everyone can have an impact on the HIV epidemic through individual actions.