It is 11:00 a.m. at the antiretroviral therapy (ART) unit of Gandhi Hospital in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. Women have been arriving slowly over the last two hours for their monthly coffee ceremony discussion. The reception area is transformed—condoms and pamphlets swept off the table to make way for a colorful tablecloth and a bowl of flowers. Popcorn is popping, coffee brewing, and the aromas of coffee, popcorn, and incense mingle in the air. Smiles appear on the women’s faces as they enter the room and rekindle their monthly friendships.
More than a symbolic action, really listening to children about their needs helps shape decision-making in support of orphans and vulnerable children in Zimbabwe. Susan Kajura, director of the Children First program there shares some small scale actions yielding big positive results.
Finally the global community has seen the importance of involving the family & community in the fight against HIV & AIDS. After a number of research studies and project implementations, we have finally realized that HIV is a family issue, and the right way to minimize the effects of the epidemic is to utilize the power of family and community support–the closest source of support for people affected by HIV.
But, I have also seen hope. I have seen people, organizations, countries coming together, putting resources together to help Zambians. I have seen a disease which was once a death sentence become a disease that can be managed, thanks to all the resources that have gone into providing testing facilities & ART, as well as care and support programs. I have seen the disease itself change from the virulent attacks characteristic of the early textbook description of AIDS, including severe oral thrush, severe Herpes Zoster, other skin manifestations; the AIDS we see now is milder, I think.
Main messages from the CCABA (Coalition on Children Affected by AIDS) – a two day symposium with most of the major players in the OVC sector participating.