World AIDS Day: Words of Thanks

Dear Friend,

Just a week after we gather with our families to celebrate Thanksgiving, we pause to commemorate a more somber occasion: World AIDS Day.

This observance each December 1 is a time to take note of the toll this awful pandemic exacts: the lives taken, the futures dimmed, the families broken apart.

But to my mind, World AIDS Day is increasingly an observance of hope. Thanks to advanced drug therapies that prolong the lives of people with HIV, this dread disease is no longer a death sentence. This has been the case for a while in developed countries like the United States, and it is now a reality in the poorest places in the world, thanks to the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR).

Catholic Relief Services is part of a coalition called AIDSRelief that has one of the largest PEPFAR grants and is providing lifesaving drug therapy to more than 170,000 people. Another 460,000 people are receiving related medical care.

And here’s the connection between World AIDS Day and Thanksgiving: This hope that you provide through the U.S. government and through your support of CRS begets gratitude from the people we serve.

CRS recently sponsored a forum in Washington, D.C., on our holistic and compassionate approach to the care of people with HIV. The event attracted some of the leading figures in the medical community. We were also privileged to hear from patients at a clinic in Uganda funded by the CRS and the AIDSRelief consortium. I’d like to share some of their words with you.

One gentleman, who has been receiving antiretroviral drug treatment since 2007, wrote to his “Dear brothers and sisters from CRS”:

“Thank you very much for this service,” he says. “I am now very strong and I can help my family a bit…Therefore I also praise the Lord, while praying that the Almighty should bless all you are doing.”

Another patient wrote to “sincerely send a word of appreciation to CRS for having constantly supplied us with [antiretroviral medications] and other necessities that have made our lives what they are today…May the Almighty reward you abundantly.”

A staff worker wrote that “Our clients who are on [antiretroviral therapy] are healthy, physically fit and they are doing well. [They have an] improved way of living economically, socially and medically, etc. Therefore with a great and loving heart I say ‘Thank you very much, CRS,’ for that kind help. And may our beloved God continue blessing your programs.”

Finally, a doctor wrote to say “I am very grateful for the support you have given to the Ugandans through your services at CRS.

“I would like to say that, had it not been for the existence of CRS in Kasanga…the poor people in the remote peripheries of Uganda would never have received any hope of living up to today nor been able to see a doctor.

“The doctor to patient ratio in Uganda is 1 to 18,000 people, and most doctors prefer to work in the urban setting. So the clients in the most distant rural places hardly get quality care.

“I have been able to leave my family, friends and all the good things that the urban places provide just to serve the poor and needy people here and because CRS has given me an opportunity to care.”

For many of these people, who had given up hope of a future with their loved ones, life has begun anew. And through your generosity, you have been a part of this rebirth.

Thank you for your continued support and your prayers.

Ken Hackett

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