WORLD AIDS DAY: Salesian Missions highlights programs that support youth with HIV/AIDS
Programs provide medical care and other critical HIV/AIDS services around the globe.
NEW ROCHELLE, NY (Dec. 1, 2023) 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 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 “Let Communities Lead” focuses on the organizations of communities living with, at risk of, or affected by HIV and that they are the front line of progress in the HIV response. U.N. AIDS noted, “Communities connect people with person-centered public health services, build trust, innovate, monitor implementation of policies and services, and hold providers accountable.”
There are concerns that communities are being held back in their response because of funding shortages, policy and regulatory hurdles, capacity constraints, and crackdowns on civil society and on the human rights of marginalized communities. The goal is to clear these hurdles so communities can move forward in the prevention and treatment of HIV/AIDS.
On the U.N. AIDS website, Winnie Byanyima, executive director, explained, “The end of AIDS is possible, it is within our grasp. To follow the path that ends AIDS, the world needs to let communities lead.”
Salesian missionaries offer more than 150 medical clinics and hospitals around the globe that handle a wide range of medical care needs and are mostly in rural areas. HIV/AIDS prevention and testing programs are vital components of Salesian health care initiatives in Africa.
“The work of Salesian missionaries around the globe goes beyond education to ensure the well-being of our students,” said Father Timothy Ploch, interim 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 2023, Salesian Missions is proud to highlight programs that provide medical care and other critical HIV/AIDS services around the globe.
Don Bosco Care Home, located in the village of Nilavarapatti in the district of Salem in Tamil Nadu, India, has a new dormitory and toilets thanks to donor funding from Salesian Missions. The project was completed in 2022.
Don Bosco Care Home has been working for almost a decade to bring awareness about HIV/AIDS and improve medical treatment for children who have been infected. Salesians provide medical care, promote positive thinking and work to break the social stigma.
For the youth in their care, Salesians with Don Bosco Care Home provide food, nutrition, medical care, education, recreation and counseling. The home was also given approval from the government to start a special school on the campus. The number of youth at the home has risen from 73 in 2019 to the current 83 youth. As a result, Salesians needed to expand both living and bathroom facilities.
Salesians constructed a multipurpose community hall with a dormitory and additional toilet block. The hall can be used as a space where all the youth take part in health camps and motivational programs and games. The new toilet facilities allow for a more hygienic environment for the youth.
Don Bosco Fambul, one of Sierra Leone’s leading child-welfare organizations located in Freetown, offers the Girls Shelter GO+ program to support young girls who have been forced into sex work. Some of the girls are as young as 9 years old. Most of them have faced violence and sexual abuse. They include girls from other countries, villages or the poorest areas of Freetown, who often are forced to provide financially for themselves and their families. Many of the girls have been infected with sexually transmitted diseases, as well as HIV, and are in need of medical care.
Don Bosco Fambul has been operating a Girls Shelter for young girls who have faced sexual abuse and are in need of shelter, support and education. Six years ago, recognizing the specific need, Father Jorge Crisafulli created the Girls Shelter GO+ program inside a therapeutic center. Since the program was launched six years ago, it has changed the lives of more than 600 girls and given them the opportunity to start a new life and access education.
Don Bosco Fambul has a staff of 120, including Salesian social workers who go out to the streets, slums and marketplaces. They engage with vulnerable youth and encourage them to join Don Bosco Fambul’s successful programs. The organization has four large buildings, a clinic, accommodations for volunteers and social workers, a house for the Salesian community, and a chapel. It’s the only program of its kind in West Africa that enables girls to live in a safe environment to overcome their traumas and start a new life.
Salesian missionaries run Don Bosco Children and Life Mission (Don Bosco CALM), located in the town of Namugongo, just northeast of the city of Kampala, Uganda. The Salesian organization rescues, rehabilitates and reintegrates street children back into society. Salesians meet basic needs and provide education, socio-cultural activities and recreation like sports programming to help youth have a bright future.
Don Bosco CALM works primarily with homeless boys and those who have been orphaned, battered, and neglected. They also work with other vulnerable youth and children, including those who are living with HIV/AIDS. Currently, the organization has 165 children in its care. All of the children are in school with some attending Don Bosco Primary School, Salesian secondary schools and vocational training institutes.
Peter is one of the youth at Don Bosco CALM. When he was only 9 months old, his mother placed him in the care of his grandmother and then disappeared from his life. At age 6, Peter lost his father. When none of his other family members could take care of him, he spent seven years on the streets.
Thanks to intervention by Peter’s aunt, he went to live at Don Bosco CALM, where he had trusting adults to provide support. One Salesian said, “As soon as he arrived, he received the care he needed and was enrolled in school. At school, he discovered the desire to study, obtained very good scores, and always stood out for his commitment and results. Today, Peter happily attends secondary school and gives everyone a smile, cheerfulness and his gratitude for this journey.”
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