Posts Tagged ‘HIV and AIDS’

World AIDS Day Message from Carolyn Woo

Friday, November 30th, 2012

December 1 is World AIDS Day, a time when we pause to reflect on the ways in which the HIV pandemic has changed our world, when we celebrate the exciting progress made in the fight against HIV, while mourning the multitude of lives it has claimed.

Many challenges remain but this year we have good reason to be optimistic. Last week UNAIDS reported that Africa has cut AIDS-related deaths by one third. And in the last two years the number of people receiving lifesaving antiretroviral medication has increased by more than 60%, to 8 million. However, there are still 7 million people in need of medicine who can’t get it. And in some parts of the world the epidemic is growing.

At CRS, our mission calls us to reach out with compassion to those affected by HIV, to assist those in need. That is why our staff and partners are on the front lines of the global response. We now have HIV and AIDS projects in 62 countries in the most vulnerable areas of the developing world. This year, CRS will directly help more than 2.5 million people affected by HIV, including more than 400,000 children.

Read the full message here.

Protect Lifesaving Funding on World AIDS Day

Friday, November 30th, 2012

U.S. poverty-focused international assistance makes it possible for Catholic Relief Services and our partners to directly support more than 4.8 million people affected by HIV, people like Maresa Otieno. Back in 2001, Maresa was sick, so sick that she had to cut back her hours working as a housekeeper at St. Camillus Mission Hospital in Nyanza, Kenya. Doctors diagnosed her with HIV but could offer no hope. At the time, lifesaving antiretroviral therapy (ART) was very rare and very expensive in Kenya, and her part-time salary would not cover even one month of medication.

For years Maresa was in and out of the hospital as her condition worsened. Her life began to change in 2003, when St. Camillus began a small ART program for employees living with HIV. Eventually Maresa was the first patient to enroll in the U.S.-sponsored President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEFPAR) program at St. Camillus. In only three months, her condition began to improve and she soon was healthy enough to return to work full time and even found the energy to share her story and encourage others to seek treatment.

But that is not the end of Maresa’s story; in fact, it is just the beginning. Since t Maresa was earning more money, she and her husband combined their resources to buy a piece of land and build a new house. Seeing how strong she was, Maresa’s husband encouraged her to enroll at a teachers’ college. After she graduated, she and her husband wanted to have a baby. They enrolled in St. Camillus’ prevention of mother-to-child transmission (PMTCT) program and nine months later Maresa gave birth to a healthy daughter free of HIV.

Today Maresa teaches a class of 40 children at a local primary school. She and her husband are raising their healthy, rambunctious four-year-old daughter and look forward to a long life together. Thanks to PEPFAR, Maresa has her life back.

Your vocal support for this truly lifesaving international assistance has helped Maresa and millions just like her in some of the poorest countries in the world. Your voice is now needed again to protect this lifesaving aid. This World AIDS Day, contact your members of Congress and urge them to support poverty-focused international assistance. Your voice has made a difference and it will again.

“It has made me be alive,” Maresa says. “I would have died more than ten years back. And I have survived because of the project. I can see my daughter because of the project. I can stay in such a house because of the project. And I believe I’m going to live the best kind of life, because I’m okay! I live like any other person. Life is so good to me.”

Take action today. Visit the Confront Global Poverty Action Center or call 1-866-596-7030.

Contact your Member of Congress now!

Myth-Busting Jordanian Doctor Preps Refugees for Resettlement

Friday, August 5th, 2011
Jordan HIV

Dr. Ammar Burqan, a physician who works for Caritas Jordan, helps refugees understand the risks and realities of HIV and AIDS. Photo by Jennifer Hardy/CRS

Jordan has a very low rate of HIV and AIDS. CRS partner Caritas Jordan uses education to help keep that rate low: teaching people about HIV in case some migrate to areas where it is more widespread.

Caritas’ educational sessions in Jordanian schools teach the facts about HIV transmission and dispel myths that make people feel invincible. Caritas Jordan medical staff have recognized a group at even greater risk than average Jordanians—refugees who may resettle to countries with a higher prevalence of HIV.

During a training session for refugees at a Caritas Jordan clinic in Amman, Dr. Ammar Burqan drew his audience into a question and answer exchange.

Women with HIV Working for a Future in India

Wednesday, February 9th, 2011
Women working with HIV in India

Women living with HIV learn skills such as sewing and tailoring during a six month program at a teaching center in India. Photo by Stephen Cunliffe for CRS

Freelance writer Steve Cunliffe reports on a CRS program for HIV-affected women in India:

“Two years ago my husband ran off and I was forced to take my two children and move back to my parent’s home. Last year I became very ill; I was supposed to die, but God saved me. After recovering, I decided that I needed to improve my life and circumstances for the sake of my children,” says 30-year-old Sumati. “A friend brought me to Bosco Mangaal, where I received further antiretroviral treatment until I was healthy and strong enough to begin training in tailoring.”

Mangaal, meaning ‘light’ in the local language, seems a very apt name for a social services partner of a major Catholic Relief Services HIV project in India, LIFE AID. Women living with HIV learn skills such as sewing and tailoring at their teaching center. The six-month training program culminates with an opportunity for the most skilled, committed and productive ladies to band together and form a co-op that receives ongoing support, such as interest-free loans and marketing assistance, from Bosco Mangaal.

India’s AIDS Orphans Catch Up on Classes

Monday, February 7th, 2011

“The sisters are like our parents. I love this place and am very happy here. I want to stay, but soon I will be ready to go because I will be done with class five.”

Nelson*, 13, lost both his parents and a sister to HIV-related illness. After the death of his parents, Nelson and his siblings were sent to live with relatives. Severe financial constraints forced all the children to drop out of school; however, after his younger sister succumbed to AIDS, child welfare finally intervened. When they discovered that he too was HIV-positive, Nelson was referred to Carmel Jyoti Care Centre and enrolled in the Breeze Course School, a part of Catholic Relief Services Project LIFE AID, which helps vulnerable children catch up on schoolwork they may have missed.

Sister Regina explained, “Carmel Jyoti cares for HIV-infected and -affected children. Almost every child you see here is an orphan. The Breeze Course School, staffed by nuns, operates on a five-class system that takes the young students two to three years to complete. The aim is not only to equip these children academically, but also socially, for reintegration into regular schools by the time they complete their final exams at the end of class five. Upon completion of the Breeze Course, the children return to their relatives, ready to continue their schooling in the local community.”

A Stealth Visit to Save a Life

Tuesday, September 21st, 2010
AIDS work in Cambodia

A doctor in Cambodia draws blood to test for HIV. Photo by David Snyder for CRS

In Cambodian villages, CRS staff and partners go house to house to make sure HIV-positive patients are taking their medication. Sometimes, though, patients decline this home-based care. CRS field staff sent in this story of how, with perseverance and tact, they overcame one woman’s reluctance.

“Stigma and discrimination about HIV are decreasing in Cambodia, but self-stigma and fear remain in some areas. We saw this with Mrs. Sophear, who is 27 years old and lives in Yieng village with her husband.

“While she was pregnant, she went to a local hospital for her prenatal care and was told that she was HIV positive. She was very worried and did not tell her husband. When the time came to give birth, she took steps to prevent mother-child transmission of the virus, but hid the reason from her husband.

Zimbabwean Teen Expresses Life with HIV through Art

Thursday, September 17th, 2009
Tich's artwork

Painting by CRS beneficiary Tich, from Zimbabwe. Photo by Jim Stipe/CRS

After wrapping up Catholic Relief Services’ Continuum of Care Forum in Washington D.C. yesterday, most participants are headed to their homes all over the world. Three of the attendees have a little more work to do, though. At the forum, the audience heard from three people who have benefitted from life-saving HIV treatment and support services, and CRS wants our supporters to hear their inspiring stories, too. Today Christine, Danny, both from Zambia, and Tich of Zimbabwe are working with the CRS video team to record special messages for you.

Tich (pronounced “Teach”) has a wisdom beyond his 19 years. Then again, he had to grow up fast. Tich began getting sick at the age of 11, at first diagnosed with meningitis, then with tuberculosis. He remembers going to a clinic to receive different tests, and the doctor asked to speak with his mother alone. After that, he began taking medicine, but his mother never told him why. When he learned that his medicines were commonly used for HIV, he went to a clinic alone to be tested. He did not let the positive result discourage him. Tich has chosen to channel his talents into helping other young people living with HIV.

“I tell them, ‘Yes, we have HIV, but that doesn’t mean we don’t have a future, that doesn’t mean we can’t go somewhere else and make good decisions in our lives.’ “

One way of expressing his feelings is through painting and drawing, a skill he lends to his work with children and young people. “I help them create their own books about their lives, and they write everything and do all of the illustrations. It is good for them to process their feelings in this way.”

Tich brought several pieces of artwork to share in his message to you, the supporters who make possible the programs that changed his future. One, he said, particularly illustrates his life. It shows a man breaking free of chains that have bound him. Be on the lookout for the final video around Thanksgiving.

New Life, New Husband, New Baby for Woman Living With HIV

Tuesday, September 15th, 2009

Christine Katyeka traveled from Zambia to Washington, D.C., to share her story of leading a healthy life with HIV. Today, she’ll tell her story at the Catholic Relief Services’ HIV Forum, held in the nation’s capitol. It’s fitting that she will speak in a city where funding of a bill called PEPFAR (President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief) gave her access to life-saving medicine.

Christine is bright, energetic, and full of inner strength. She had to rely on those qualities when her first husband wanted to take on a second wife.

“I thought to myself, ‘I am too smart to live in polygamy.’ “

It took strength to move back to her parents’ home, and to gather the courage to get an HIV test when she failed to recover from repeat infections. After she received a positive diagnosis, her father discouraged her from beginning anti-retroviral therapy.

“He said I would die if I started taking strong medicine. I had to find courage within myself to start treatment.”

She found a source to nurture that courage in a HIV support group where she met her husband, Danny.  They are the proud parents of a healthy toddler girl who does not have HIV.  And eventually, Christine’s father was won over by the profound improvement in his daughter’s health.

“Now he tells everyone to get tested, to get in treatment. He says ‘Look at my Christine!’  And they go.”

CRS’ HIV Continuum of Care Forum is underway in Washington, D.C., and experts from around the world are gathered to share best practices for providing services to people living with HIV. Although many of the discussions will be technical, the conference also highlights stories from people like Christine, individuals whose lives have been changed by quality HIV treatment and support services.

Ambassador Goosby to Address CRS HIV Forum

Friday, September 11th, 2009

Ambassador Eric Goosby, the United States Global AIDS coordinator, is among the speakers at a two-day forum in Washington D.C. on September 15 and 16, Participants at the forum will examine the care of HIV and AIDS patients around the world.

Dispensing anti-retroviral drugs

Michele Jina (right) dispenses anti-retroviral drugs at the main pharmacy at Hospital Esperance, located in northern Haiti. The hospital is supported by the AIDSRelief consortium, led by CRS. Photo by Rick D’Elia for CRS

The forum, sponsored by Catholic Relief Services, will feature presentations from practitioners and researchers from countries in Africa, Asia and the Caribbean, as well as CRS headquarters in Baltimore. They will showcase innovative and promising practices from CRS care and treatment programs.

Focusing on the continuum of care, our experts will deliver presentations on how to treat HIV and AIDS patients over the long term, addressing a variety of needs of those of all ages in all stages—from pediatric to palliative care.

Dignity and quality of life are at the heart of CRS’ HIV and AIDS programming. CRS supports more than 280 HIV and AIDS projects in the poorest and most vulnerable regions of the developing world. In 2009, CRS will help nearly 24 million people affected by the pandemic—more than 8 million directly and nearly 16 million indirectly.

The forum will feature four beneficiaries of CRS’ work in Zambia, Zimbabwe and Uganda. CRS President Ken Hackett will be among those addressing the gathering, which will be held at the Academy for Educational Development Conference Center, 1825 Connecticut Ave., in Washington, D.C.

To register, visit

India Visit Brings Human Face of HIV Into Focus

Monday, July 27th, 2009

A group of students from Austin, TX, recently visited CRS’ HIV and AIDS program in India. Liza Manjarrez, a campus minister who accompanied them, reflects on the trip:

For over a year, I had been planning an international immersion trip to India. The trip, for students, would focus on building community, doing justice, living simply, and engaging spiritually.