HIV is rapidly spreading across Latin America and the Caribbean, with an estimated 1.8 million adults infected by HIV, and an additional 49,000 children struggling with this infection.
"Ninety percent of the children who died with AIDS last year were African, 90 percent of the new HIV infections in children happened in Africa and 90 percent of the children who have lost parents due to AIDS are African children," says Scott Todd, Director of Compassion International's AIDS Initiative. "That is why Compassion's AIDS Initiative is focused on Africa. Yet HIV and AIDS are also significant threats to children outside of Africa and for that reason Compassion is also conducting HIV/AIDS work in non-African countries. Compassion will continue to strike back against this pandemic wherever it threatens our children."
Below are some highlights of Compassion's AIDS Initiative efforts in Latin America:
"Compassion Peru conducted an HIV/AIDS prevention training class attended by more than 22,000 people, including 16,000 Compassion-assisted children, 6,000 parents, 214 church partner workers and 187 church partner directors. Positive cases have been discovered in children and caregivers and they are being supported through the Initiative.
"Compassion Haiti health workers trained nearly 100 Leadership Development Program students to teach their peer groups about HIV/AIDS and abstinence.
"Compassion Bolivia teamed up with a university to organize workshops on HIV and AIDS prevention for Compassion church partner pastors and ministry leaders.
"Compassion Guatemala hosted a conference for church staff to raise awareness about HIV/AIDS, which is rapidly spreading through many urban communities. More than 800 people attended, including Guatemala's national director of the HIV/AIDS program, physicians, pastors and families affected by HIV and AIDS. Following the conference, 40 Compassion church partners held their own HIV/AIDS awareness conferences, and more than 22,000 people attended, including thousands of registered children and their families.
"Compassion Honduras began an investigation of the AIDS epidemic in February. Pastors, HIV-positive children and adults, and church tutors were interviewed. Following the study, 10 church workers were certified in HIV counseling, and an additional five in HIV counseling, rapid HIV testing and epidemiology. Honduras has discovered positive cases in caregivers and registered children as a result of their proactive stance on HIV and AIDS.
"Plans to begin testing children outside of Africa are underway," says Amy Metzger, Senior International Health Program Specialist for Compassion International. "These activities are the foundation for future work in these countries, work that will make an impact and change the well-known pattern of HIV around the world. Our aggressive, biblically based attack on this disease in countries that have not known the paralysis that Africa has will surely stem the tide of the infection."
Although Africa is still hardest hit by AIDS, other continents are reeling from this growing menace. According to UNAIDS 2007 data, the number of people living with HIV in Latin America and the Caribbean has risen to over 1.8 million. Nearly 69,000 people died of AIDS, and 117,000 more were diagnosed with HIV.
Because of the increasing spread of HIV and AIDS in areas outside of Africa, Compassion is training project and health staff around the world to work with families and children affected by HIV and AIDS.
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