With Progress on HIV/AIDS, Now’s Not the Time to Stall

by Virginia Sowers, ChildFund Community Manager

There’s good news in the fight against HIV/AIDS – treatment and prevention are working. People living with HIV are living longer and AIDS-related deaths are declining with access to antiretroviral therapy.

A new report by the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS) shows that 2011 was a game-changer for AIDS response with “unprecedented progress in science, political leadership and results.” The report also shows that new HIV infections and AIDS-related deaths have fallen to the lowest levels since the peak of the epidemic. New HIV infections were reduced by 21percent since 1997, and deaths from AIDS-related illnesses decreased by 21 percent since 2005.

In sum, treatment has averted 2.5 million deaths since 1995.

“Even in a very difficult financial crisis, countries are delivering results in the AIDS response,” says Michel Sidibé, executive director of UNAIDS. “We have seen a massive scale up in access to HIV treatment which has had a dramatic effect on the lives of people everywhere.”

According to UNAIDS and WHO estimates, 47 percent (6.6 million) of the estimated 14.2 million people eligible for treatment in low- and middle-income countries were accessing lifesaving antiretroviral therapy in 2010, an increase of 1.35 million since 2009.

The 2011 UNAIDS World AIDS Day Report also highlights that there are early signs that HIV treatment is having a significant impact on reducing the number of new HIV infections.

Yet, around the globe, there were an estimated 34 million people living with HIV in 2010. We must keep making progress, and U.S. international aid is one of the keys to that progress.

A new analysis by amfAR, the Foundation for AIDS Research details the potential human impact of proposed congressional cuts to the U.S. International Affairs Budget. According to the analysis, proposed cuts to global health investments would have minimal impact on U.S. deficit reduction over nine years but would have “devastating human impacts in terms of morbidity and mortality around the world.”

An estimated cut of 11.07 percent across the board in FY13 alone would result in

  • 29,000 more infants born with HIV because of reduced funding to Prevention of Mother to Child Transmission programs
  • food, education and livelihood assistance not available to 419,000 children through PEPFAR (U.S. President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief)
  • funding to treat 403,000 people for HIV/AIDS not available.

Those are sobering statistics to contemplate, especially coming on the heels of a year with tangible improvements in the HIV/AIDS epidemic.

On World AIDS Day, let’s resolve to keep moving forward. The goals are clear:
zero new infections, zero discrimination and zero AIDS-related deaths.

Read more about how ChildFund is helping reduce the impact of HIV/AIDS on children and youth.

Reviving Hope

Reporting by ChildFund Ethiopia

Just by walking the streets of Ayertena village, Addis Ababa, one can easily observe the poverty situation in which many Ethiopians live. It is also common to see many people with disabilities due to leprosy.

Teen girl and grandmother

Tizita prepares coffee for her grandmother.

Tizita, a 13-year-old girl, lives with her grandmother in the village. Her grandmother is unable to work because she is extremely affected by leprosy to the point of physical deformity.

The traditional belief that leprosy is a curse or punishment has aggravated the stigma and discrimination. When Tizita’s grandmother was young, leprosy sufferers often were forced to leave their homes. Her family was among those forced to migrate, and they settled around ALERT (All Africa Leprosy, Tuberculosis and Rehabilitation Training Centre), a medical facility in Addis Ababa, specializing in leprosy disease. ChildFund Ethiopia is also implementing a child and family development project in this area.

HIV/AIDS is another devastating health, economic and social problem in Ayertena. Ethiopia is home to a large and increasing population of orphans: 13 percent of children throughout the country are missing one or both parents. Among the estimated 5.4 million orphans (from newborn to age17), 900,000 lost parents to HIV/AIDS.

Tizita lost both her father and mother HIV/AIDS. Worse, she inherited the disease, as well as the responsibility of caring for her grandmother.

Being HIV-positive initially made Tizita’s life full of anxiety and trouble. She worried about her health condition and the stigma of having the disease. “I often was seriously sick,” she says, tears flowing down her cheeks. “I don’t know why I am given the worst situation. I was worried what would happen to me and my grandmother in the future.” She also lived in fear of discrimination when she went to school and the market.

Girl pours coffee

Now that she has a support network, Tizita is seeing a future for herself.

Yet, Tizita has found help through one of ChildFund’s affiliated projects in Ayertena, which assists orphans and vulnerable children. “I recently started ART (antiretroviral drug therapy), which has helped me to improve my health condition. Now I feel healthy and am attending to my education,” she says.

“I’m getting psychological support from the ChildFund project and my teachers,” she adds. Because she now has a support network, she also worries less about discrimination due to HIV/AIDS. “My hope has been revived,” she says.

Clean Water for Ugandan Families Living with HIV/AIDS

by Virginia Sowers, ChildFund Community Manager

Procter & Gamble, developer of the PUR water filtration system, has partnered with ChildFund to provide a year’s worth of PUR water purification sachets to 1,000 households in Uganda’s Luwero district.

The distribution of PUR sachets (365 per household) and water purification sets will provide safe drinking water to families living with HIV/AIDS. Additionally, ChildFund, working through trained community health volunteers, will educate families on the importance of proper hygiene, steps they can take to prevent diarrhea and how to recognize the danger signs of diarrhea that require prompt medical attention.

Approximately 1,000 households (5,000 to 6,000 people) living with HIV/AIDS will now have a reliable source of clean water. The PUR water filtration system, developed in collaboration with the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, provides a simple means of purifying dirty water in an affordable and convenient way.

Greg Allgood, with Procter & Gamble, recently visited the ChildFund community in Uganda, providing this firsthand blog.

From Scavenger to Top Student

by Wondwosen Hailu

Wondwosen, who works for URC, is a quality improvement advisor with ChildFund’s Strengthening Community Safety Nets project in Ethiopia.

Biruk is now a scout leader.

Biruk,16, had lost both of his parents due to prolonged illnesses associated with HIV/AIDS when he was only nine. His aunt gave him refuge since he had nowhere to go. However, her $100 birr pension (less than $10 monthly) was too small to adequately care for Biruk and her own three children.


Biruk had to supplement his needs by scavenging in Addis Ababa’s biggest garbage dumping site, located few hundred meters from his home. He was on the verge of dropping out of school.

New hope came to him through a local NGO called HAPCSO (Hiwot HIV/AIDS Prevention Care & Support Organization), which receives funding and technical support from ChildFund Ethiopia to assist orphans and vulnerable children impacted by HIV/AIDs. HAPCSO awarded Biruk a full scholarship, which enabled him to afford school materials and fees, and made him eligible for a dry food ration and a cash allowance of $100 birr per month.

His social life also took a new path when he joined the Scout Club, which he currently leads. The Scout Club provides children with life skills, counseling support and recreational activities. Club members play games and perform music and drama. They also learn skills needed to become successful team players. The club, which has 110 regular and 300 associate members from Kolfe Keranyo sub city in Addis Ababa, regularly conducts life skills and health training for children.

Through their performances, children and youth educate members of their community on the negative effects of stigma and discrimination associated with HIV/AIDS and promotes desirable behaviors. As a result of their activities, 70 iddirs (a form of indigenous social insurance for help members during bereavement) revised their bylaws to include an article on providing care and support to vulnerable children.

The Scout Club has been instrumental in turning Biruk’s life around. He continues to amaze the school community with his extraordinary work. For the last three years, he has been the top scorer in his class.

Biruk, who escaped a life of garbage scavenging, aspires to become a medical doctor. He wishes to save lives of Ethiopians who suffer from diseases.

What World AIDS Day Means to Me

Guest post by Arthur of Zambia

My name is Arthur and I am 15 years old. I am HIV-positive. I tested positive in December 2006. I live in Kafue District of Zambia with my parents, older sister and aunties, and I am enrolled in ChildFund programs.

World AIDS Day is a very important day for me as people the world over come together to show their support for those living with HIV. When AIDS was discovered in the early 1980s, all the people in the world were shocked and filled with fear. A lot of stories trying to explain the cause of this deadly disease were being told.

After much research was done it was discovered that this disease was caused by a virus called HIV, which attacks the human immune system and is found in human blood. It was also discovered that one can get the disease through sexual intercourse, and this caused a lot of stigma and discrimination to the people infected. Eventually, people began to realize that everyone could be affected, as a lot of people were dying from AIDS.

Many children were left orphaned, and people were losing friends and relatives. The world again realized that even if you were not infected you were affected and decided to come together to fight this deadly disease called AIDS. Other discoveries were made on the mode of transmission such as mother-to-child transmission.

To show world unity, people began to commemorate World AIDS Day in December 2000. This is one of the biggest days for people living with HIV because it helps them to feel recognized, accepted and supported. They are not excluded but included.

AIDS has widely spread through six continents and 54 African countries. With so many people affected, there is no reason for a negative attitude toward people who are infected.

World AIDS Day is a day to show love, care and support to people who are infected. Despite AIDS not being curable, medicines have been produced to boost one’s immune system and give hope for the future. If one is infected, it does not mean it’s the end of world. With ARVs (antiretroviral medications), one can live their life to the fullest.

World AIDS Day is a day when the infected and the affected can celebrate the end of stigma and discrimination and continue fighting the good fight of faith. One day, we will win.

Future of Zambia Rests with Its Children

In Zambia, 78 percent of the rural population lives on less than $1 a day, says Ely Keita, ChildFund’s National Director for Zambia. The impact of HIV/AIDS has heightened pressures on poor families. To help reverse the extreme poverty in this country, ChildFund programs are focusing on educational opportunities, health services and livelihood training for youth.

Hear more from Ely in this video interview:

Cattle Project Benefits Children Affected by HIV/AIDS

Acowa Community leaders hand over a heifer to its proud new owners.

Every year, a unique cattle roundup takes place in Soroti, Uganda. But instead of an auction, there is a community celebration of sharing a valuable resource with those less fortunate.

Partners for Children Worldwide, the ChildFund-supported federation in the Teso Subregion, works with the Acowa community to provide heifers to families of orphaned and HIV/AIDS-affected children. Since 1997, community members have shared 816 head of cattle with those most in need.

This year, 27 families received heifers, which provide nutritional milk for the family and manure to improve agricultural yields. Surplus crops mean extra income for families who have been struggling to survive. Owning a heifer is the fulfillment of a long-held wish for food and income security.

As a result of the heifer-sharing program, household incomes in the Acowa Community are gradually increasing. The Cattle Dispersal Committee is working to reach more families every year. As milk production increases, the committee envisions forming a community co-op to market and sell surplus milk to other communities.

Restoring Health and Hope to ChildFund Communities

by Virginia Sowers
ChildFund Community Manager

As we mark World Health Day, cities and communities across the world are participating in this World Health Organization effort to improve individual and collective health globally.

Having just returned from a ChildFund Study Tour in Kenya, I was pleased to learn that Nairobi is one of 13,000 cities participating in this year’s World Health Day events, with an emphasis on urban health.

This week, Nairobi is closing a major street to traffic and setting up a health fair. Fun activities including music, dance, acrobats and a carnival procession will advocate and educate the public on healthy lifestyles in cities.

As we learned on a project visit to the Karai Pamoja HIV/AIDS support group in Kenya, education is absolutely critical to improved health. When this community was struck with the AIDS epidemic several years ago, the majority of the population feared the disease and lacked adequate knowledge about transmission and prevention. Those who became ill did not receive adequate care or nutrition. Children struggled to survive as their parents became bedridden or died.

In September 2005, ChildFund Kenya’s Weaving the Safety Net program “came to the rescue of the Karai community in the Kikuyu District,” explains Gad Son Thiru, chair of the community-based organization. ChildFund trained home-based care workers to support the bedridden and refer them to health facilities for antiretroviral therapy.

Next came the formation of the Karai Pamoja support group for people living with HIV/AIDS. It started with 15 members who tested positive and grew to 86 members. “Karai Pamoja support group became the only hope and savior of the people living with HIV/AIDS in this area because it was here members felt safe and secure,” Gad explains. Members felt safe to share personal worries, fears and hopes for the future.

Members of Karai Pamoja support group

As the members regained their health through good nutrition and access to medication, ChildFund helped them develop income-generating activities. The group has opened a community bank account, and the money is used to buy food, improve housing and support their children’s education.

ChildFund also helped sustain the community’s children by providing school uniforms, books, deworming, vitamin A supplements, mosquito nets and psychosocial support.

“As you can see,” Gad says, “you cannot tell our HIV status because we are now strong and back to our feet.”

Three-Year HIV/AIDS Survivor Regains Her Life

ChildFund International’s commemoration of World AIDS Day continues with an interview with Ruth Nateleela, who is living with HIV/AIDS in Kireka, a township in south-central Uganda. She is receiving care and support from ChildFund and its program partners. Sheila Birungi, ChildFund Uganda project affiliate, conducted the interview.

Are you able to work, and, if so, what type of work do you do?
Yes, but right now I am not working since I have just given birth. However, before I was doing petty trade, selling charcoal and other consumables like tomatoes and onions.

Do you have children? How does this affect your outlook on the future?
I have four children. I know the future of myself and the children is bright because my child who is HIV-positive is taking ARVs (anti-retrovirals), and they told me that she can live as long as the drugs are taken well. I am also taking my drugs well. For the youngest child of three months, I was given PMTCT (prevention of mother to child transmission) capsules, and the doctors told me that that she will be fine.

How long have you lived with this disease?
I knew three years ago.

What education have you received?
I was first told that if you test your blood you will be able to know your status. After that, I went to ChildFund offices at the Kireka project and tested the first time. They told me that I was HIV positive and I did not believe, but I went to Mildmay Centre and they told me the same thing.

When I went, they told us on how to eat and about using condoms. They also told me to tell the doctors that I am pregnant since they have to take care of the baby such that she does not contract the disease.

How have ChildFund programs helped you?
ChildFund’s Kireka project is the one that gave me light on everything. I would be even dead by now if it was not for the project. They gave me access to the blood test. They also [referred] me to Mildmay, and now they are the ones who come to remind me on how to take my drugs. They have been giving food to my child for a long time — the one who is HIV-positive — and taking her to their centre to play. Mrs. Sseruwaji Nuru [home-based volunteer] is very instrumental to me. I ask God to bless her because she made me regain my life and I must say thank you to ChildFund.

As a person living with HIV/AIDS do you feel accepted? And do you feel safe?
Yes I am. Why are you shaking my hands? It’s because you do not discriminate against me, and I am not any differently treated in the community. I am so happy about life generally, and I don’t have any problem.

How is this disease affecting the community in which you live?
People are very sick, but the good thing is that now no one can laugh at any one with HIV. Actually, these days, people share a lot about the experiences, and they even direct each other to the service centres.

Do you thing HIV prevention, treatment, care and support is a critical part of human rights?
Yes, because we are all the same people in front of God. So if I have HIV, it does not mean that because you do not that there is a difference in terms of human rights.

What are your goals for the future? What are your dreams?
To have good family and to be able to bring up all my children and educate them all.

Any details you would like to share with others about HIV/AIDS and the people like you who have it?
I just want to tell them that HIV is real and to always test themselves because that’s the beginning of life. For my friends who have it, they need to care about themselves and this can only be done when you meet all the necessary people, like organizations, and make friends through telling them your status.

Those Living with HIV/AIDS Often Become Caregivers to Others

ChildFund International programs provide care and support to thousands of parents and children affected by HIV/AIDS. Our commemoration of World AIDS Day continues with an interview with Sseruwaji Nuru, a home-based care volunteer who is HIV-positive and working with others living with HIV/AIDS in the Kampala area. Sheila Birungi, a ChildFund Uganda project affiliate, conducted the interview.

How long have you been working with HIV/AIDS patients?
Since 2002 when ChildFund trained us as volunteers in home-based care (HBC).

How did you come to be in this field work?
We were selected by team of staff as the people to train in HBC, and I accepted.

What are your principal job responsibilities?
The major one is to keep confidentiality for our clients and also to [treat] all the clients as an individual. They are not the same and they should be treated in different ways. Recordkeeping is also another thing to keep in control because we are handling a lot of information, especially on adherence to ARVs (anti-retroviral drugs). And we, therefore, have to stress the times when the drugs are taken and the progress.

Where do you work?
I see the patients at the home and make sure that they get the drugs they have to receive.

Home-based caregiver Sseruwaji Nuru (in black T-shirt and hat) discusses the drug-adherence monitoring form.

What is your case load?
I have up to 28 clients; however, in every month the numbers have to change because of the different migrations out of most of the members. On the days I work, I see about four patients every day, especially if I do not have a lot of my own work. On a weekly basis, I can have 8 to 10 of them.

What is your key area in working with someone with HIV/AIDS?
Disclosure first. Stigma reduction. Nutrition and adherence to ARVs.

What are the day-to-day lives like for the patients with HIV/AIDS?
They have time for joy and they can be sorrowful at times. The work they do depends on how well they are, and they can sometimes be rude to the family member. The time without good meals is very bad, especially because of the drugs they take. Sometimes the day can be bad if they have demands for money, for example, house rent and other domestic needs for their families and also school fees.

What progress have you seen with HIV/AIDS prevention and treatment since you’ve been working in this area?
People are no longer stigmatized, and they are positively living with it. Many people are now able to live longer and with healthy families. Also, the installation of hope in whatever they are doing.

Are people better educated in prevention than before?
Yes, and very much better lives realized.

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