US Ambassador to Zambia Donald Booth has observed that education and community participation are fundamental to fighting HIV and AIDS.

Launching the President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) small grants project at SOS Children's Village skills training centre in Lusaka's Chazanga compound yesterday, Ambassador Booth said there was need for both individual and collective responsibility towards the fight against HIV/AIDS.

"We must not underestimate the importance of education. As President Obama has said, 'education is the currency of the 21st Century'. Education is the foundation for better health, decreased poverty and stronger democracy," he said.

Ambassador Booth said PEPFAR Orphans and Vulnerable Children (OVC) project would provide aid to children in several communities around Lusaka.

"It aims for sustainability. It focuses on the future, searching for ways to ensure young people have the knowledge and skills that will enable them provide for themselves and their families well after they leave the programme," he said.

Ambassador Booth noted that education was essential for Zambia to achieve middle-income status.

"That doesn't mean everyone needs to pursue an advanced degree in engineering or become a professor of philosophy. What it does mean is that each of us has skills and talents and a responsibility to develop them. Some people have a natural ability with math," he said. "Others are good with their hands, some have a way with words and others are gifted at understanding mechanics. All these skills put into action by individuals and communities across Zambia will change the future."

Ambassador Booth urged young people to take advantage of the project to develop their talents.
"These skills will allow you to earn a living for yourself and your families in the long term, providing you a sustainable source of income. You are the future of Zambia. Through education, you will shape your future and Zambia's future for the better," he said.

Ambassador Booth appealed to the community to work together in preventing HIV and AIDS.

"Talk to your friends and family about HIV, about your concern for their health and well-being, and ways to remain free from HIV. You can halt the spread of HIV/AIDS by working together and protecting yourselves. As a result, you can ensure a healthy and productive future for the children of Zambia," said Ambassador Booth.