What’s the hope for AIDS?
World AIDS Day on December 1 is an important reminder that HIV has not gone away. Not to minimise in any way the growing threat of Ebola, but globally an estimated 34 million people have HIV. Even more have already died of it. Despite recent improved access to antiretroviral treatment in many parts of the world, AIDS still claims about 2 million lives a year,of which about 270,000 are children. In Chiang Mai. Thailand, where our Radical Grace project is based, about half those with AIDS are under 22. Almost half a million people have HIV in that country, and, according to the Bangkok Post, the number is growing by more than 9,000 a year.
Today, though much more is known about the condition, many people still don’t understand how to protect themselves and others, and stigma and discrimination remain a reality for many people living with HIV in the countries where SIM is working. There’s a problem at the core of HIV and AIDS : broken relationships with each other, with God and within communities. For nearly a decade, SIM’s various HOPE for AIDS projects around the world have been working through local churches and communities to mend the brokenness and keep families together, believing that intact families and communities are the best response. Support networks of grandparents, aunts, uncles, neighbours, teachers and others, are strengthened to protect the most vulnerable and needy.
HOPE for AIDS works also to care for the practical needs of people impacted by HIV. They visit, bring monthly provisions for nutritional and medical support, teach positive living, bathe and bandage wounds, massage feet, provide a listening ear, give assistance with income generation and, almost always, a hug for someone who goes far too long without one. HOPE for AIDS engages with youth and with prisoners, demonstrating healthier lifestyles and knowledge of prevention. Children receive psychological, social and nutritional support and help to stay in school.
The clear message is: there’s still a need to increase awareness and improve education for those who haven’t understood the danger. There’s a need to heal broken families. There’s a need for funding so our projects can keep bringing hope to those with AIDS who are unable to earn an income and live ignored by society, like a problem swept under the mat. This World AIDS Day, the need to fight prejudice will be highlighted, with a campaign for “Zero Discrimination”.
Click here to find out more about HOPE for AIDS and Project Radical Grace.