Posted on December 6, 2019
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“HIV does not make people dangerous to know, so you can shake their hands and give them a hug: Heaven knows they need it.” [Princess Diana]
World AIDS Day has been marked on December I, since 1988. It is an international day dedicated to raising awareness of the AIDS pandemic caused by the spread of HIV infection and mourning those who have died of the disease.
Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (AIDS) is a group of symptoms that result from an HIV infection when left untreated. Despite the virus only being identified in 1984, more than 35 million people have died of HIV or AIDS, making it one of the most destructive pandemics in history.
Globally, there are an estimated 36.7 million people who have the HIV virus. In Africa an estimated 23.8 million live with HIV and 91% of the world’s HIV-positive children live in Africa. That is a staggering number.
Up to 80% of people who are infected with HIV experience a flu-like illness 2- 6 weeks after becoming infected. After these initial symptoms disappear, HIV often does not cause any further symptoms for years. However, over this time, the virus continues to be active and progressively damages one’s immune system.
Huge efforts have been made to learn about and counter the impact of HIV. The virus can now be successfully treated with antiretroviral medications, which work by stopping it replicating in the body. This reduces the amount of HIV virus in the body. The aim is to reduce HIV levels to an undetectable level.
While people carrying the HIV virus and living in the western world have easy access to the antiretroviral medicines, it is not the case in many African countries. Lives continue to be cut short by this infection. This is due both to poverty and inequality and it is loud and clear.
While AIDS is no longer perceived as a deadly illness in the western world, in Africa it remains an indisputable death sentence. But this needn’t be the case if there is a will to change this.
More than 50 percent of the nearly 6,000 orphans and fatherless children that ACT support in Africa had lost one or both of their parents to HIV/AIDS related illness. In the same way about 50 percent of the women in our widows’ empowerment programme had lost their husbands to HIV/AIDS or are also carrying the HIV virus. Although ACT is unable to tackle directly the medical consequences of HIV/AIDS, we work to give the children a better life by educating them and we support the widows through counselling and training them in business and whole life skills to empower them. With education and training we can prevent this disease from spreading any further and devastating any more innocent lives.
We provide lessons on HIV/ AIDS awareness and prevention as part of the training in our Widow’s Programme. We also cover topics such as inheritance and human rights, sanitation and health, in addition to business skills which aims to help them start-up small enterprises for sustainable income generation.
Our Ulemu (dignity) project is educating young girls about menstrual health, and is helping to break down the taboos and stigmas associated with menstruation as well as HIV/AIDS.
World AIDS Day is a reminder to the world of the consequences of this life-altering disease — the millions of children who have been orphaned in Africa and other parts of the world, and women, widowed and left destitute. We need your support to give them hope for a better future.
Join us now. Make a regular donation to sponsor a child or a one-off donation to support a widow. Find out more here.