Control AIDS, save a continent

By Kara Schneider
April 24, 2008


How do you save a continent that’s being decimated by a potent and commanding disease called AIDS? There are many community-based organizations along with worldwide programs are attempting to control and prevent the spread of AIDS. These organizations reach out to individuals in the United States and elsewhere to assist.

Global organizations hold promise to bringing worldwide attention to this devastating disease. The HIV/AIDS pandemic has affected over 60 million people in the world; 20 million people died of AIDS overall and in Africa it is the No. 1 cause of death.

Catholic Relief Services, with its main headquarters in Baltimore, Md., is an international organization that works with partners in 100 countries throughout the world and strives to create an impact worldwide that will bring about new hope in the battles of hunger, war and disease along with other global struggles.

CRS began its first HIV/AIDS program in Thailand in 1986.

As of today, CRS currently runs AIDS programs in 52 countries in Africa, Asia and Latin America.

Ken Hackett, president of Catholic Relief Services, said in an interview that when he was transferred to Kenya in 1992 he was astonished by the heartbreaking and appalling effects of AIDS upon the African citizens that had worsened since the 1980s, the last time he had lived there.

As Hackett asked about old friends he learned that many had died at a very young age. He began to ponder and questioned why they had died- “and it all turned out to be from AIDS.”

He concluded that “Catholic Relief Services has to do something.”

The United States has also recognized that to reduce poverty, the spread of HIV/AIDS has to be lessened or even eradicated. President Bush has developed an emergency plan for AIDS relief known as PEPFAR, President’s Emergency Plan for Aids Relief, which is the biggest initiative by any one country dedicated to HIV/AIDS.

“The things that we take for granted here in the United States, like access to these antiretroviral drugs, are not available in Africa. And until the AIDS relief and the president’s initiative and other HIV/AIDS relief efforts began to take hold this disease was a death sentence for people,” Joan Neal, executive vice president for U.S. Operations at CRS, said.

Another major organization, The Global Fund, has committed itself to coordinating and providing 1.8 million people with antiretroviral treatment.. The Global Fund has distributed over $10.1 billion to over 136 countries in the world. This unique program will reach 62 million people in hopes that they will receive voluntary counseling and testing services for HIV prevention.

Every individual can make a difference. A local example of a single person finding a way to make change is Ryan Keith of Mechanicsburg, Pa., the founder and president of Forgotten Voices International. This organization relieves and assists the HIV/AIDS pandemic by funding local churches and community programs to help better serve nations in need.

“The biggest thing to do to help our organization and organizations like ours is tell our story. Our story is a story about local people helping people in their community,” Keith said.

The Red Campaign, with their slogan, “Think Red. Think Stop. Think Now!” is a business model that gives the money that they raise to Sub-Saharan Africa for anti-retroviral drugs by selling (RED) products. By buying (RED) products, you can help one more person in Africa live the life that they deserve to live, just like everybody else in the world.

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Kara Schneider

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