Marking World AIDS Day today feels somewhat like a glass of cold water splashed in the face, charging the world to refocus its attention on the AIDS epidemic. Does it seem like HIV and AIDS have taken a backseat to other global issues? Could we even risk saying it’s no longer chic to fight this deadly disease?
The number of people infected with HIV had stabilized in recent years, and the numbers of new cases and deaths have both decreased (due to antiretroviral therapy), but we’re still a long way from reaching the Millennium Development Goal to “Achieve, by 2010, universal access to treatment for HIV/AIDS for all those who need it.”
Nevertheless, we at World Concern are encouraged some numbers of our own, which far exceeded our goals. In supporting children orphaned or left vulnerable for AIDS in Kenya, Zambia and Haiti, 153,663 children were served – 3,000 more than targeted. Many of those children live with caregivers – relatives or foster parents – and we strengthened 39,106 caregivers, 16,000 more than intended. Teenage orphans often end up caring for younger siblings, so we help them with food, education, vocational training and psycho-social support. Nearly 28,000 AIDS orphans received educational support through our projects, which had a goal of serving just 3,600.
Among those encouraging numbers are real people, and it’s important to put faces and names on this disease. One of those helped by World Concern is 15-year-old Japheth, who lives in Kenya.
Japheth was bounced between four homes in his short life. Raised by a single mother until she died, Japheth moved in with his grandmother, but she too passed away three years later. His aunt and uncle initially took him in, but he was kicked out of their home when his uncle learned that Japheth was HIV positive.
He had inherited a small piece of land from his mother, but his uncle snatched that up and sold it.
World Concern learned about Japheth and contacted a local pastor who has been active in our AIDS orphans program and found a foster family for Japheth. With our help, Japheth was also able to redeem the land that was stolen by his uncle. And, we helped him get his school fees covered so he could be back in school.
Japheth is now living in a supportive environment and thriving in school, scoring high enough grades to secure admission into Nijia High School.
World AIDS Day serves its purpose of raising awareness and refocusing people on this issue. But it’s still just a day. We need to remember that people like Japheth don’t need a day to be reminded of the devastation of HIV and AIDS. They live it every day.
To learn more about World Concern’s AIDS programs, please visit www.worldconcern.org/godparent.
For more information on World AIDS Day, go to www.worldaidsday.org.