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More than 250 East African children are receiving life-sustaining AIDS therapy as a result of an innovative program from Compassion International.
"There is no doubt these children would have died without these treatments," said Dr. Scott Todd, Director of Compassion's AIDS Initiative. "This program lifts the death sentence that once accompanied the diagnosis of AIDS," he said.
As World AIDS Day is marked on December 1, more than 1,000 Compassion-assisted children in East Africa have been confirmed as being HIV-positive. In addition, approximately 4,300 caregivers and siblings of Compassion-assisted children have been confirmed to be infected with HIV. Todd estimates that these numbers represent about 25 percent of the actual cases of HIV infection yet to be confirmed among the children and families that Compassion serves.
Compassion's AIDS Initiative responds to this need by providing prevention, treatment and rehabilitative care. One powerful feature of the initiative is antiretroviral (ARV) therapy -- treating viral infections such as HIV with drugs. The medicine prevents HIV from replicating in the body which allows the immune system to recover its role as defender against other infections. As a result, decades of longevity and health may be offered to the person taking ARV.
"More than 90 percent of the people who need the medicine don't have access to it," Todd said. "They're the people living in small communities and villages in Africa.
"There are many challenges to providing care for those with AIDS in Africa but the most difficult challenges are not just about clinics and capacity. They are about relationships. Success in the global fight against AIDS is not accomplished strictly by getting pills to clinics. It requires supporting people in their decisions to go for care and stay with therapy through life's sometimes overwhelming hardships," Todd said.
"When you are a nine-year-old girl living in an African slum and you have witnessed the death of your mother to AIDS, the reasons to hope are few.
"Compassion is unique because we build credible and lasting relationships with people in the communities. That allows us to enter their world, to listen, to counsel, to encourage and to offer everything required for successful return to health. This includes everything from nutritional support, antibiotics, antiretroviral drugs and even such things as transportation. All these costs are covered by Compassion. That is true access and a plan for success in the long haul."
Compassion believes that thousands of siblings and caregivers associated with Compassion-assisted children are also HIV-positive. As funds are available, they also receive assistance from Compassion.
"When ARV is administered to caregivers, it enables children to remain with them, receiving all the benefits that a family has to offer," Todd said. "Not only does ARV extend lives, it enhances the quality of lives. As a result, it allows children to have the best possible life."
Compassion International is one of the nation's largest Christian child development organizations, working with more than 65 denominations and thousands of indigenous church partners in Africa, Asia, Central and South America and the Caribbean. Since 1952, Compassion has touched the lives of more than 1 million children and has been recognized for its financial integrity with top ratings and recommendations by several "watchdog" organizations. For information about sponsoring a child, click the Sponsor a Child link above or call (800) 336-7676, Monday through Friday, 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. MT.