Sunday, February 28

Living with HIV/AIDS

AIDS according to the United Nations remains the most deadly disease for sub Saharan Africa where it is estimated 22 million of the 33 million worldwide sufferers reside. Living with HIV/ AIDS not long ago was an early death sentence with ruinous consequences for the people of the region and their economies. In our earlier communications with the communities in Malawi it was evident the disease was having a devastating impact which, combined with poor harvests presented a dire outcome and a less than optimistic view for the country‘s future.

But whilst I was in Malawi last year it was already evident that vastly improved health outcomes are now a reality due to the effectiveness of antiretroviral drugs provided free by the government. If the drug is taken in conjunction with a nutritional diet then the HIV/ AIDS sufferer in all likelihood in many cases will look forward to the equivalent of an almost normal life. The pall over Malawi had lifted together with improved agricultural outcomes which meant for the first time in decades a surplus maize crop was available for export.

The history as to how this all came about has been very slow but also encouraging.
The effective yet very expensive antiretroviral drugs were available to richer countries in 1996. The developing countries were to wait for many years later when finally in 1999, after a good deal of buttressing; a license was finally approved to produce an inexpensive generic version in South Africa. Subsequently four leading drug companies offered cheap drugs to the developing countries. Significant funding was provided in 2001 by the creation of the Global Fund to fight AIDs, tuberculosis and malaria. Click here to visit their website.

The United States which was the then funds largest contributor set up additionally the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS relief which authorized $48 billion dollars in 2008 spread over 5 years, with Ireland contributing a further $25 billion in the same year. ‘Developments in the fight against AIDS’ Editorial – Africa – St Patrick’s Missions –Ireland February 2010

Whilst in Africa I listened to many people’s stories, including that of a grandmother, whose experience was typical of many in their community in terms of church, faith and children. It wasn’t until later that I learned that her husband had died the previous year from HIV/AIDS. She was also infected and acknowledged her past sorrow, but lived a joyful existence. She had let go of her physical suffering and, by focusing on the spiritual, transcended her past sorrow for present joy. While we have great concern for her and the many others, including orphans, who carry a heavy burden through no fault of their own, their joyful spirits, unimpeded by the severe material hardships they endure, remain a true testament to their faith.
The full article I wrote about The Warm Heart of Africa is to be published in the April edition of 'Africa' by St Patrick's Missionary Society with a number of photos addtional to that which was featured earlier in the catholic newspaper Kairos, click here. should it be of interest.

Meanwhile on a global scale efforts continue: Gaborone/Geneva, 18 February 2010 –‘United Nations AIDS’ is calling for an international effort to renew commitment for countries to achieve universal access to HIV prevention, treatment, care and support. Countries are urged to undertake an open and inclusive consultation process—bringing together governments, development partners, civil society organizations, networks of people living with HIV and community groups to review the progress made in reaching country targets for universal access. UNAIDS will support countries and regional bodies in convening these reviews.
The call to action was made by UNAIDS Executive Director Mr. Michel Sidibé while on an official visit to Botswana.

But the global downturn is affecting the flow of funds into the global AIDS programs which may lead to a decline in many countries.

It is crucial that the governments, churches and voluntary organizations redouble their efforts to prevent new infections and to continue to facilitate treatment and care for those already suffering the effects of the disease.
"Hopeful Developments in the fight against AIDS" -Editorial – Africa – St Patrick’s Missions –Ireland February 2010


Seraphine said...

your writing is a bright ray of light, lindsay. when i think of africa, i think of poor government, poor nutrition and endemic corruption. from darfur to the congo to zimbabwe, what i read about is suffering and violence. africa seems hopeless.
there are too few stories about what works, or the successes the continent has achieved.
the global economic tsunami is still sweeping over most of the world. i hope whatever aid is still available is funneled into education, health care and other things that "work" rather than squandered on corrupt regimes and more military equipment.
you're a good man lindsay. there's a song in your heart and you see the goodness in people. that's a gift.

susan said...

Sera has beaten me to the punch insofar as she has expressed much of what I felt when I read this story.

Why is it so difficult to convince people that it's only by kindness and sharing that the world will become a better place for everyone? There is no problem that can't be solved by empowering people. You are excellent proof of this maxim.

Mercutio said...

What a commendable endeavor.
Really, I hadn't considered the matter to the extent where I could see the succession of events from plague to famine and on.
It does appear as if the necessity of a continual supply of medications presents particular vulnerability.
It is good to see people involved in enacting solutions to such problems. Thank you for your efforts.

Anonymous said...

Unable to give you a heart. so have a reply to push up your post. ........................................

Lee said...

Well said and written, Lindsay. We don't hear enough of the good that is being done and sometimes not enough good is being done!

Seraphine said...

hi lindsay! thank you for your encouraging words and wishes.
what often works in under-developed places is community and actul caring. i don't think enough is said about that.
we like to help others who are less fortunate, but there isn't enough money or medicine to go around. what can we do? by starting with and meeting spiritual needs like you are, you are also bringing together community and the sharing of scarce resources.
when people start actively caring, it attracts more commitment and resources and it "snowballs" until it makes a meaningful differance in people's life.
it's wonderful not just for the people being helped from poverty and diseease, but it is also wonderful for the people who learn that making a differance impacts their own lives in wonderful ways too.

Seraphine said...

aww, lindsay, you really know how to make somebody feel good. thank you for the encouragement.
sometimes what we think of as freedom is just walking into another room.
but it's nice to peek in some of the different doors and choose which room you want to go in. the difference between a prison and a castle is the freedom to choose which you'd like to live in.

離職 said...

hi!~~leave you a message to say hello, and thanks for your share!........................................

Seraphine said...

hi lindsay!
some good news today. the house of representatives in washington passed a health care bill!
the bill creates healthcare for the poor (95% of the population will finally have healthcare insurance, although i'm unsure why 5% is still excluded).
and insurance companies can't uninsure you for pre-existing conditions.
it's not perfect, but considering the difficulty of passing this, it's a wonderful victory for the average (and poor) american citizens.

Gary said...

Good piece Lindsay. With the right circumstances, much of Africa will thrive in this global free market economy.

Meanwhile, a small amount of effort goes a long way. You might find this organizations interesting. I've met him a couple of times and he's generated terrific support in Canada

best to you...

Seraphine said...

let me guess? on waldon pond?
i read thoreau in university, but i don't really remember it. sad isn't it? but i still believe an education is never wasted, even if much of it is forgotten.
john steinbeck said much the same thing when he looked into the tidepools of baja california. he saw the universe in the pools.
water is contiguous.
you're right about nature being contiguous-- everything fits together.
and it is much bigger than our thoughts. the universe is infinite, if theory holds. and that boggles the mind.
i can intimately feel the limits of my mind.
i am half so intimate with nature, and helpless.

lindsaylobe said...

Hi Sera, Susan. Mercutio, Lee, 離職 , Gary

Thanks for all of your comments and Gary for the reference. You can view the latest pictures of the schoolchildren benefiting from our help on the Malawi blog.
Great to see the revised heath coverage has finally been passed, to reflect back to us a more favourable image from the Waldon pond!

Best wishes