Parents and children from several Tanzania projects listen as a pastor speaks about preparing to fight the HIV/AIDS epidemic that has struck Africa and now threatens their own area, 40 kilometers northwest of Arusha.
It has been estimated that 70 percent of the world's HIV/AIDS victims live in Africa. Of those, about 1.3 million live in Tanzania. The disease is no respecter of persons, and affects even the youngest children. Too often, it is passed on to children through their parents, while other children are orphaned by the HIV/AIDS-related deaths of their parents. A growing number of families of Compassion-assisted children are being affected by this epidemic. In response, Compassion Tanzania has implemented the first stages of a strategy to fight the numerous effects of the deadly illness.
Dr. Adela Materu is at the head of Compassion Tanzania's HIV/AIDS program. With the help of POC funds, she has begun a multifaceted endeavor to provide education and prevention measures to the families aided by Compassion Tanzania. During 2001, she traveled to each of the 41 Tanzanian projects several times, educating church leaders, church members, project workers, and parents about the dangers of contracting HIV/AIDS, how to prevent the spread of the disease, and treatment and care for those who already carry it.
After these initial educational meetings, five people from each project attended four-day training sessions on AIDS education, prevention, and care. These seminars, led by Dr. Materu, were intended to make those 205 people the "experts" on the subject, so that someone always will be available to answer questions or offer assistance at every project.
Finally, interested families of Compassion children have been given the opportunity to receive confidential counseling and blood testing for HIV/AIDS. Families with confirmed cases of the disease are receiving home-based medical care. Other needs, such as blankets, mattresses, mosquito nets, and supplemental nutrition, are also provided.
These efforts are only the first steps in a long-term undertaking. As Dr. Materu and the staff of Compassion Tanzania enter their second full year of actively confronting HIV/AIDS, they know there is still much to be done. However, they are confident that through their work, they can not only minimize the effects of the deadly disease on future generations of Tanzanian children, but also spread the hope and love of Christ.
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