CRS HIV and AIDS Programs are Making a Difference

Bill O’Keefe, Senior Director of the CRS Advocacy Department, recently returned from Zambia and had this reflection:

Having visited many rural African Catholic health clinics over the last 20 years, I was amazed at how the advent of antiretroviral therapy has brought hope and healing to persons with HIV in Zambia. Where health workers for years were focused on helping people die, they are now in the business of bringing people back to life.

CRS-supported Chreso Ministries Clinic, a Lusaka, Zambia-based program that provides key services to more than 5,700 people living with HIV and AIDS. Photo by Hilary Roxe/CRS.

CRS-supported Chreso Ministries Clinic, a Lusaka, Zambia-based program that provides key services to more than 5,700 people living with HIV and AIDS. Photo by Hilary Roxe/CRS.

I am thankful to have just returned from visiting CRS’ PEPFAR-supported projects in Zambia. The experience brought home to me that the work that all of us with the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops have done to advocate for HIV funding over the years is truly making a huge difference.

In Washington, D.C., staff from the foreign affairs committees are focusing on the reauthorization of the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR). Just last week, CRS had the opportunity to testify in Congress on the critical connection between nutrition and HIV. Having witnessed this connection in Zambia, the hearing could not have been more timely. We are trying to help shape the next five years of PEPFAR so that it is even more effective. We are going to need your help, though, from now until a final bill passes, probably in the spring of 2008.

We face opposition or inertia on a number of fronts. The role of the Church in providing health care in remote parts of Africa is itself underappreciated. While our experience and evidence support the important contribution abstinence and behavior change play in preventing the spread of HIV, others have a very different view. The ease with which CRS and others are able to piece together an integrated program that fights HIV, while addressing nutrition, education, sanitation and other related issues, will be a challenge.

Thanks for supporting our past efforts on HIV and AIDS and other important issues. I invite you to continue with us in our HIV advocacy over the next few months. Here are specific ways you can help:

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