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AIDS Then and Now

December 3, 2010

By pwrdf

To mark World AIDS Day on December 1, staff at Church House gathered in the chapel for a service of worship organized by PWRDF.  Excerpts from the 2004 PWRDF World AIDS Day worship resource, Point of Light were used, and Zaida Bastos, CIDA Program Coordinator for PWRDF gave the homily, reflecting on the significant changes that have occurred in how the disease is being addressed by the international community, and treated at the local level.  Following are her reflections.

By Zaida Bastos, CIDA Program Coordinator, PWRDF
December 1, 2010

Then, was the PWRDF STATEMENT ON HIV/AIDS Adopted by the PWRDF Board, November 2, 2002.  At the time Charlotte Maxwell was the Eastern and Southern Africa Program Coordinator and she worked tirelessly to have the PWRDF Board adopt the HIV/AIDS Statement which was followed by the Partnership for Life Initiative.

Then, was 2004 when for the first time with a mandate from the PWRDF Board I began visiting communities in crisis deeply affected by HIV/AIDS.

Then, was 2004 when I met Joyce Sylvia, Sophie, Ludi, Martha, and Naomi in South Africa.  They were all dying with AIDS and they knew it.  They did not have any hope.  As a testament to their children, these women got together, twice a week at Point of Light to support each other, and build the memory boxes that they would leave to their children as a momento of their life together.  Whenever I would visit them, they were welcoming, courageous, and full of laughter even though they knew that they were on the threshold of death.  They are all gone now; that was then.

Six years later, I think that my experience with Joyce Sylvia, Sophie, Ludi, Martha, and Naomi would have been different.  If I had met them in 2010, they would be on anti-retroviral therapy, they would have had the hope of living a few more years, and they would have been able to raise their children.  They would not have missed graduations, marriages, and other key moments in the lives of their children because they would have been with them.

A lot has happened between then and now.  The world took notice of how devastating the AIDS pandemic was and how many lives were lost and continue to be lost.  The world mobilized and took action.  The creation of the Global Fund and other initiatives around the world played an important role in making funds available for countries to roll out anti-retroviral therapy to save lives. To date, it has committed US$19.3 billion in 144 countries to support large-scale prevention, treatment and care programs against AIDS and diseases associated with AIDS.  PWRDF raised approximately 3 million dollars during the Partnership for Life Initiative towards the same end.

Despite all the well articulated progress, there is a lot of work to be done.  Infections are outpacing treatment 2 to 1 and 10 million people are still waiting for treatment.  Many people living with AIDS share their stories with us and they say that living with the virus is a very difficult journey, but confronting stigma, discrimination and rejection is even harder and a very painful reality.

Africa continues to carry the burden of the HIV and AIDS pandemic. Countless numbers of orphans and their grandmothers need our support.  Millions of people living with AIDS need reliable and sustainable commitment from us so they can have the necessary life-saving drugs to continue to live and be productive members of society.  Countless women and men in every corner of the globe continue to be agents of change, educating communities about HIV and AIDS, caring for the sick and the orphans.  Special thanks should go to them, particularly to the grandmothers who are the unsung heroes and front-line workers in the fight against the pandemic.

The Joint United Nations Program on HIV/AIDS has a new vision which is: “Zero new HIV infections.  Zero discrimination.  Zero AIDS-related deaths.”  The work is not done.  And Charlotte Maxwell, one of the tireless front-line workers in the fight against the pandemic is here with us today to continue the work that she began then.

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