Joel A. Berger Award

The Joel A. Berger Award recognizes an outstanding public affairs initiative that creates AIDS awareness in local communities. The award is named after the former publisher of Cablevision magazine. Berger died from AIDS in 1995. The Cable Television Public Affairs Association is proud to honor VH1 as the recipient of this year’s award for its initiative “VH1 and The Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria — A Partnership,” as part of its public education campaign to build awareness for global HIV/AIDS.

In July 2004, VH1 teamed up with The Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria to build awareness for the global HIV/AIDS crisis and to help put a face on the immense problem for the American audience. Showcasing the work of The Global Fund required educating the public about the global pandemic. In 2001, The Global Fund was conceived by the United Nations to be the world’s “war chest” to fund the eradication of the three deadliest diseases worldwide. The organization works with recipient countries to provide funding for grassroots based development programs. The Global Fund encourages new and innovative alliances among partners within recipient countries, and works to encourage local ownership of their programs such as Kenya Network of Women with AIDS (KENWA), a grassroots community-based organization in Africa.

In a modest center in Nairobi, Kenya, Asunta Wagura struggles daily to provide hot meals for 1,700 HIV/AIDS orphaned children, as well as medical services for 5,500 people affected with HIV/AIDS in her village community. Wagura is Executive Director of the KENWA, a local organization that she and four other HIV-positive women helped to found in 1993. At age 22, Wagura was just beginning her studies at Nairobi Medical School in Kenya when she was diagnosed HIV-positive. Her work with KENWA is part of the thread of survival for 6,952 people enrolled at the center. Its humble mission is to improve the quality of life for women with HIV/AIDS and their children. It is just one of the programs in 131 countries that The Global Fund has helped to support.

Since the world’s most economically stable countries primarily fund The Global Fund, it is necessary to achieve and maintain awareness to ensure annual financial support by the U.S. government. As its U.S. media partner, it was not difficult for VH1 to build a campaign around The Global Fund’s enormous commitment to fighting HIV/AIDS. Over five years, with resources provided by The Global Fund, 1.8 million people are projected to receive antiretroviral treatment, 62 million people will be reached with voluntary counseling and testing services for HIV/AIDS prevention, and more than 1 million orphans will be supported through medical services, education and community care.

In spite of the wonderful work The Global Fund has accomplished, VH1 wanted to use its power and reach to influence decision makers for continued support. As a result of VH1’s HIV/AIDS awareness activities and outreach, Global Fund messaging has reached over 87 million households in the U.S. and 1.5 million unique visitors to The campaign also received media attention on a global level when the first of four PSA’s was premiered at the International AIDS Conference in Thailand in 2004. In addition, VH1 donated $2 million in original programming with the documentary VH1 News Presents: Tracking the Monster: Ashley Judd & India.Arie Confront AIDS in Africa, as well as airtime to Global Fund public service announcements in 2005.

The documentary prompted viewers to call and e-mail VH1 to find out ways they could help. Many viewers called Africa directly and this effort has resulted in KENWA appointing an Executive Director to handle U.S. based donations.

The battle against global HIV/AIDS can’t be solved quickly or easily, but The Global Fund is one of the best hopes for eradicating the three most devastating diseases on the planet.