Issue 4 2021

6 CEO MONTHLY / ISSUE 4 2021 , Feb21531 Actionplus Foundation : “Take Action Now” Founded by the Apostle Fred Osei Annin in 1997, Actionplus Foundation is an international organisation dedicated to destigmatising HIV/AIDS within the faith communities of the BAME population. Its award-winning ‘Take ActionNow’ model has been implemented across the world, transforming churches into refuges dedicated to HIV prevention and intervention. We take a closer look at the life-changing work of Fred Annin and Actionplus. Actionplus Foundation was established with a simple yet powerful mission at its heart: to transform the lives of people within BAME communities living with and affected by HIV/ AIDS. Based in the UK but with branches in three African countries, the charity partners with international organisations to develop initiatives that empower leaders of faith communities to spread vital information on sexual health alongside their messages about the love of God. In doing so, Actionplus is eliminating the negative perceptions of HIV/ AIDS and providing the path to better healthcare and support for the afflicted. The organisation was founded by the Apostle Fred Osei Annin in Lambeth and Southwark in 1997 which, at the time, had the highest rate of HIV infection of any UK community. Since then, the organisation has established branches in Fred’s homeland of Ghana, and also in Kenya and Uganda. This man of God found that the most significant factor in the spread of HIV/AIDS was the ignorance surrounding the disease, which fuelled the stigma attached to it by churches and faith communities. This has had a devastating impact on victims and their loved ones. The church is the pillar of many African communities, both at home and abroad, and faith leaders used to preach that the disease was God’s punishment for “immoral lifestyles” – and that it could be treated through prayer alone. To others, the disease was a dangerous threat that dared not speak its name; so it was shut out. It’s victims were shunned, rather than embraced and advised to seek readily available medical treatment. It was Fred’s vision that the church should be a place of sanctuary and support for those with HIV/AIDS, rather than a place of judgement and condemnation. This was the vision that gave birth to the Actionplus Foundation, and its award-winning “Take Action Now” programme. This entailed African faith leaders being given training and information about HIV/AIDS and other sexually transmitted infections. The scheme succeeded in correcting the negative perceptions previously held by many pastors, empowering them to spread the word about proper treatment and care to those who relied on them for guidance. Actionplus’ mission can be broken down into four key outcomes: preventing transmission by raising awareness; promoting the benefits of early diagnosis, which increases the chances of managing the virus; challenging prejudice by tackling the stigma surrounding HIV and AIDS through education; and tackling poverty by giving HIV-positive people and AIDS sufferers the resources to support themselves when they are ill. After successfully establishing the model of his organisation in the UK, Fred returned home to Ghana in 2007 to begin rolling out the initiatives in communities on the African motherland. In just over five years, the Ghanaian branch of Actionplus made a momentous impact, reducing the country’s rate of HIV infection from 3.6% to 1.3%. As a consequence Apostle Fred became one of the recipients of the African Prestigious Awards in Accra, Ghana, in 2015. Past recipients include the Presidents of Ghana and Tanzania. The successes of this hub of healthcare led the organisation to develop exciting new initiatives and projects to continue destigmatising HIV/AIDS and supporting those afflicted with the illness. The branches in Kenya and Uganda came online subsequently. Another one will be set up in Cote d’Ivoire later this year. Indeed, Apostle Fred Annin’s pioneering ‘Take Action Now’ model is becoming a global phenomenon. As a direct result of this work, which has been described as “revolutionary”, HIV testing centres now operate in churches in the UK and Actionplus- affiliated churches in Africa. In the UK the charity has teamed up with the Mountain Movers Chapel International Church and the Living Flames Baptist Church, among others. With the emergence of the current Covid-19 pandemic, the organisation has also had to adapt accordingly, to provide support to HIV/AIDS victims who have tested positive for the coronavirus. The charity’s success can be gleaned from the fact that it has won national and international awards every year since 2014. They include the Southwark Mayor’s Award for civic duty. Actionplus was named the “Best HIV Prevention Support Service in the UK 2020” at the Greater London Enterprise Awards this year.