WORLD AIDS DAY: Salesian Missions highlights programs that provide HIV/AIDS education and health services
Programs in India, Ivory Coast and Uganda illustrate the work of Salesians around the globe who are providing services and supports for those affected by HIV/AIDS.
NEW ROCHELLE, NY (Dec. 1, 2019) Salesian Missions, the U.S. development arm of the Salesians of Don Bosco, joins humanitarian organizations and countries around the globe in honoring World AIDS Day 2019 celebrated each year on Dec. 1. The day is held to honor AIDS victims and focuses on prevention and treatment issues surrounding HIV (human immunodeficiency virus) and AIDS (acquired immune deficiency syndrome).
World AIDS Day originated at the 1988 World Summit of Ministers of Health on Programs for AIDS Prevention. Every year since then, United Nations agencies, governments and civil society join together to campaign around specific themes related to AIDS. This year’s theme “Communities make the difference” highlights the important role that communities have played and continue to play in the AIDS response at the international, national and local levels.
UNAIDS has noted that since the first cases of HIV were reported more than 35 years ago, 78 million people have become infected with HIV and 35 million have died from AIDS-related illnesses. UNAIDS indicates that communities have contributed leadership and advocacy to ensure that the response has kept people at the center of their work and left no one behind.
There is more work to be done. In a statement on its website about the day, UNAIDS notes, “Greater mobilization of communities is urgently required to address the barriers that stop communities delivering services, including restrictions on registration and an absence of social contracting modalities. The strong advocacy role played by communities is needed more than ever to ensure that AIDS remains on the political agenda, that human rights are respected, and that decision-makers and implementers are held accountable.”
Salesian missionaries offer more than 200 medical clinics and hospitals around the globe, mostly in rural areas, that handle a wide range of medical care needs. HIV/AIDS prevention and testing programs are also vital components of Salesian healthcare initiatives in Africa.
“The work of Salesian missionaries around the globe goes beyond education,” says Father Mark Hyde, director of Salesian Missions. “We aim to serve the whole person by making sure that basic needs like health and nutrition are met in addition to other social service needs. Medical programs, particularly those focused on the treatment of HIV/AIDS, ensure that those who are living in poverty still have access to the medical care they need even when they cannot afford to pay for it.”
On World AIDS Day 2019, Salesian Missions is proud to highlight programs that provide medical and other critical HIV/AIDS services around the globe.
In response to the overwhelming need for HIV/AIDS care in India, Salesian missionaries opened the Don Bosco Care Home in the village of Nilavarapatti, located in the district of Salem in Tamil Nadu, in August 2011. The Salesian-run program provides care and assistance for 62 boys ages 7-21 who are living with HIV. Salesian Father Daniel Sebastian, director of Don Bosco Care Home, has developed the program with a holistic approach.
At Don Bosco Care Home, participants receive counseling, recreation opportunities, medical observation and critical antiretroviral therapy treatments (ART). Some of the boys live at the home and have access to services and educational programs there while others, including those who attend the local polytechnic college, have access to the program’s ART treatments and then return to their own homes.
The program has been particularly effective because youth are able to study and build peer relationships in a safe and supportive environment free from the stigma and rejection they may have previously encountered. In addition to their school studies, boys take care of the animals and birds at the facility and work the land cultivating fruits and vegetables. They also participate in sports each day. Special programs are also provided including comedy, singing and dancing which the boys participate in with enthusiasm.
The Ivory Coast has one of the highest HIV/AIDS prevalence rates in West Africa. While a wide range of national and international initiatives focus on HIV/AIDS awareness, prevention and testing, the collapse of public health facilities in the north as a result of years of conflict has made the situation worse.
Salesian Missions donors provided the funding for the Don Bosco House in Abidjan, the economic capital of the Ivory Coast, to build a psychological care center where trained educators help youth work toward emotional healing and well-being. The Don Bosco House provides programs for street children and other at-risk youth, including those with HIV/ AIDS, many of whom have experienced abuse and violence.
The government of the Ivory Coast, in collaboration with UNICEF, conducted a study into child abuse in the country and found that 86.5 percent of children between the ages of 1-14 have been victims of violent disciplinary action including psychological, emotional or physical abuse.
Salesian missionaries have been working with poor youth and their families in Abidjan for more than 25 years. They provide social development services, education and workforce development to help youth break the cycle of poverty and become contributing members of their communities.
To help respond to the issues of violence against children, the Salesian community of Abidjan provides several programs and awareness activities related to the protection of children including launching a new psychological care center.
Salesian Missions is committed to improving the well-being of children and families in Uganda, a country rebuilding after decades of war while facing a serious increase of HIV/AIDS cases which have left millions of children orphaned. The Don Bosco Children and Life Mission, located in the town of Namugongo just 10 miles northeast of the city of Kampala in Central Uganda, received funding from Salesian Missions donors to support a Salesian program that helps children living in poverty who are HIV positive.
The program provides educational courses, medical treatment, medicines and nutritional meals for youth living with HIV/AIDS. These youth are also eligible to receive counseling, recreation opportunities, medical observation and critical antiretroviral therapy treatments.
The Don Bosco Children and Life Mission provides more than 140 at-risk boys aged 6-18 access to primary, secondary and technical education along with sports programming, youth clubs, guidance counseling and life skills training. Students also have the opportunity to participate in a variety of extracurricular activities including jazz band, brass band, acrobatics and programs by Youth Alive Uganda, an organization that works with youth to promote social skills and values.
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