The Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS) today announced the appointment of Mohammed Yunus, the pioneering founder of a “village bank,” as a Goodwill Ambassador to help fight the epidemic around the world, especially among the poor.A Bangladeshi economist, Mr. Yunus set up the Grameen Bank in 1983 to provide micro-credit loans of very small amounts to the rural poor who bear the burden of HIV/AIDS. “Access to micro-credit reduces the impact of HIV at the family level and provides for succession planning,” Mr. Yunus said in a statement released today by UNAIDS. “Providing micro-credit to families affected by HIV/AIDS must be made an essential part of the care strategy.”UNAIDS Executive Director Dr. Peter Piot said because micro-credit focuses on women and on the most disadvantaged, two highly vulnerable groups when it comes to the spread and impact of AIDS, the programme will help lift people out of poverty and give them a chance to control their own lives, bringing self-sufficiency to millions of poor families.According to UNAIDS, Mr. Yunus’s ideas couple capitalism with social responsibility and have changed the face of rural economic and social development forever. With 1,092 branches, the Grameen Bank provides services to 36,000 rural villages in Bangladesh, and extends credit to over 2 million of the country’s poorest people, the UN agency said.Since its inception, Grameen has loaned more than $2 billion in unsecured credit to the poorest of the poor, 94 per cent of whom are women with an unparalleled repayment rate of 98 per cent. The agency said as a champion of the fight against poverty, Mr. Yunus will help bring the message of HIV/AIDS prevention and care to many of the world’s neediest people.Working on behalf of UNAIDS, Mr. Yunus will visit countries to advocate comprehensive and early intervention on HIV/AIDS programmes, help document best practice in the region, encourage the private sector to invest in HIV prevention programmes, promote the involvement of civil society in the fight against AIDS, and represent the agency at key national and international events.