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Q&A with Every Footstep Counts Judge Amaya Gillespie from UNICEF

We caught up with Every Footstep Counts judge Amaya Gillespie, who manages UNICEF Partnerships and Special Initiatives, to talk about how this competition helps bring attention to community interventions that are making a difference in the global HIV response.

Community groups are harnessing the power of video storytelling to capture and share the emotions, courage and inspiring stories of individuals committed to the global HIV response.

Every Footstep Counts (EFC) is a video competition designed to showcase and celebrate community groups that work to eliminate mother-to-child transmission of HIV in their local area. EFC is a special initiative of the Positive Action for Children Fund, which is an integral part of ViiV Healthcare’s commitment to communities affected by HIV and AIDS.

This year 45 videos have been open to public vote which ends this Friday, 6 May 2016. Thanks to your votes, the public favourites will be reviewed by an expert panel of judges who select the winners.

One of the EFC judges is Amaya Gillespie, who currently manages global Partnerships and Special Initiatives in the Program Division of UNICEF Headquarters, in New York. Learn more about Amaya via the EFC competition website.

We caught up with Amaya to talk about how competitions like EFC help to bring attention to community interventions that are making a difference in the global HIV response: 

What are your overall impressions of the EFC 2016 video entries? What do you like about them?

Amaya: I really like the great diversity that is evident in the video entries, showing the real community experience and vibrancy. It’s wonderful to hear women and girls telling their stories in their own voice, and to see so many men supporting their cause. At the beginning of the UN Millennium Development Goals, we could only dream about these kinds of stories proliferating all over the world – so it’s truly wonderful to see them now in 2016.

How are these videos demonstrating the impact community groups have in their area?

Amaya: After more than three decades of the epidemic, it is easy to become dazed by the statistics that keeping pouring forth, but it is the ‘human’ factor that really comes through in the videos. And that is the story of individuals coming together within their own communities, often with very little resources but enormous courage and commitment that ultimately overcomes stigma and opens doors to prevention, treatment and caring communities. The statistics and reports don’t capture what it feels like to be affected by HIV in the way that these video can.

Why is it important for community groups to tell their story?

Amaya: We are all aware of examples of second hand story telling gone wrong – interpretations, translations and even good intentions that missed the point. Nothing can substitute for hearing the direct experience from those affected, in their own voice. Indeed this has been a key feature of our success so far – and now we see so many social and health issues following the lead of the HIV and AIDS movement - ‘Nothing about us, without us!”

EFC is a competition showcasing members of communities. Why do community votes matter?

Amaya: These are not victims, these are triumphant, courageous and inspirational individuals and communities who have lived the HIV experience. They are pioneers in many ways, learning and teaching about how to overcome some of life’s greatest challenges. There is no doubt in my mind that these communities have driven social change well beyond HIV per se and around the world. And so these communities have a kind of unique expertise and perspective – an insider’s perspective if you like – which will be different from others, and simply cannot be provided by others.

How can voters help to engage the general public to get involved and cast their vote?

Amaya: Social media is a great way for voters to get their friends interested and involved in #EveryFootstepCounts. As with any competition, the more views and votes the better, so get your friends and followers involved in voting!

The EFC public vote ends this Friday, 6 May 2016. Cast your vote today – your voice matters!