During a visit to a safe-house for trafficked women in Laos, we were surprised to see a 9-year-old girl running around. “I had presumed her to be one of the lady’s daughters,” said Rosemary Hack, Director of AIDSLink International. She was soon to find out that at the age of 4, the girl had been kidnapped and sold into the sex industry. By the age of 7, she was HIV positive; this 9-years-old girl was one of the residents of the safe-house.
“The rate of HIV and AIDS in Laos has increased to 0,2 percent,” noted Rosemary, “and as borders to countries with much higher rates of infection are opening, so too is increased infection to be anticipated.”
In an effort to see hope restored in individuals and communities, as we together overcome the challenges of HIV and AIDS, AIDSLink International ran a three-day workshop on HIV and AIDS to 30 local and foreign workers in Laos.
The course introduced participants to the basics of HIV and AIDS. “We had been warned that participants would be too shy to talk about sex,” said Rosemary. “But we found them to be very interactive, and by the last day, they were quite comfortable to talk about HIV and condoms with others.”
One of the local participants seemed to soak in everything that was being shared during the course. Weeping on the last day, she said that she had stigmatised those infected with HIV at the safe-house where she worked, by wearing a facemask and avoiding direct contact. Added Sanpong*, the lady who runs the safe-house, “Now I can help those with HIV take their medication, because I now know how important it is.”
The following day, the AIDSLink International trainers visited the safe-house, and were encouraged to see their training implemented first-hand. It was Valentine’s Day, and so not only girls from the centre were there, but also girls from the street. “The staff was sharing what they had learnt during the workshop when we arrived, so one of our team members, who is HIV positive, spontaneously shared his story. We also played the game ‘Wild Fire’, symbolically illustrating how fast HIV can spread...You could tell they were listening.”
Rosemary Hack, the founder of AIDSLINK International, along with her husband Michael, visited Operation Mercy Iran.
Operation Mercy Iran and AIDSLINK International have been partnering since 2008, and have conducted a number of trainings.
The most recent training was a three-day workshop entitled "HIV/AIDS Prevention Workshop" for local NGO's in Feb. 2013
Rosemary and Michael trained Operation Mercy staff regarding daily challenges in the field e.g. cultural intelligence (for expat staff), team building skills, and coping with personal challenges.
UNAIDS reports a 52% reduction in new HIV infections among children and a combined 33% reduction among adults and children since 2001.
This is fantastic! All of us involved in AIDSLink International are thrilled. However, the temptation is to take our foot off the gas - in reality this is a crucial time - if we want to see these gains continue, there is absolutely no room for complacency. We must continue to TRANSMIT HOPE!
It was a thrill to read a report from the AIDSLink team at Lake Tanganyika. They have just started an HIV counseling and testing programme in very remote villages where neither HIV testing or treatment were previously available.
They test people for HIV and if they are found positive immediately test their CD4 count and if needed put them on treatment right away. In one village of 67 people tested, 6 were positive and 5 of those were able to start treatment within 30 minutes of diagnosis. One person said that they had been unwell for 8 years - no one had been able to tell them why or offer help.
Not so long ago an HIV diagnosis would have been a death sentence, but now we can put people on treatment, which when adhered to correctly, will enable them to live a healthy life. And, because it keeps the virus under control, they are less likely to transmit HIV to others.
Dani Choi, from S. Korea, who is working with Orphans and Vulnerable Children and Drug Users in Mamelodi, South Africa recently went through the Channels of Hope Facilitator’s Training (for those working in the field of HIV and AIDS).
After the course she wrote, “I can't stop tearing up at the moment as I'm reading through all the questions that I got from the schools at which I teach life orientation including HIV and AIDS information.
“Here are some of their questions:
Do you feel it when HIV enters into your body or when the virus fights you? Can you hear it?
How can you fight HIV?
If someone is HIV positive and I want to help him, but I'm afraid... What should I do?
Why can HIV not be cured?
“If I hadn't taken the training, I wouldn't feel anything about those questions, rather just ignore some stupid ones!
“It gives me hope that I feel something in my heart, seeing the needy concerning HIV and AIDS...
So, the training has already made difference in my mind.”
27 people from 7 different organisations and 18 countries took the “Channels of Hope” Facilitator’s training conducted by AIDSLink International.
They, like Dani, are now being Channels of Hope in Africa and to the ends of the earth!