AHOPE for Children: Providing Love and Hope for HIV Positive Children in Ethiopia

Before I travel to a new place, I make it a habit to read a couple of books on the country I’m visiting in order to get an overview of a country’s history, culture, politics and other pertinent issues. When I was selected to go to Ethiopia as a fellow with the International Reporting Project where I’d be learning about newborn, child and maternal health I found several fabulous books highlighting these issues.

photo-2One of the most powerful non-fiction books I read before I left for Ethiopia this past June was “There is No Me Without You” by award-wining journalist Melissa Fay Greene.

Greene’s moving book chronicles the life of one woman’s fight to save Ethiopia’s AIDS orphans during the height of the AIDS epidemic in Africa. Before reading the book, I honestly had no idea that Ethiopia was the second most impacted country in Africa by HIV/AIDS. Greene herself was unaware of the severity of the AIDS epidemic until she came across a New York Times Article in the summer of 2000.

On page 20 in her book, Greene writes:

Per the United Nations, in 2000 Africa was “a continent of orphans.”  HIV and acquired AIDS had killed more than 21 million people, including 4 million children. More than 13 million children had been orphaned, 12 million of them in Sub-Saharan Africa.  25% of those lived in 2 countries: Nigeria and Ethiopia. In Ethiopia, 11% of the children were orphans.

Greene realized she could not turn a blind eye to this horrible tragedy and spent the next several years researching the origin and history of the HIV/AIDS, the development of antiretrovirals, the impact of AIDS in Africa and the plight of an entire generation of AIDS orphans. Her research resulted in her powerful book “There is No Me Without You” which is all shown through the eyes of one woman, Haregewoin Teferra, who dared to rescue these children, deemed untouchable and tragically left behind in the aftermath.

A book written on Amelezewd's life.

A book written on Amelezewd’s life.

It was within this mesmerizing, heart-breaking true story that I learned about Amelezewd and AHOPE for Children.  Amelezewd Girma and her two younger brothers were AIDS orphans living with Haregewoin when it was discovered Amelezewd and one of her brothers were HIV positive and too sick for her to care for.

At the time, Ethiopia was overwhelmed with HIV/AIDS orphans (there were over 1.5 million in Sub-Saharan Africa by 2005) and Haregewoin searched desperately for a place that she could send Amelezewd and her brother to be properly cared for. Through Haregewoin’s search, she found Enat House for HIV-positive children which later was renamed AHOPE for Children, and Amelezewd and her brother Michael were placed there.

Sadly, it was too late for young Amelezewd who as a young teenager dreamed of getting an education and becoming a professor someday. Life-saving anti-retrovirals (ARV) that were widely available in the western world were still unaccessible in Sub-Saharan Africa where they needed them most. ARVs were not available in Ethiopia until 2005. Amelezewd passed away leaving behind a legacy of heartbreak and hope while her younger brother Michael survived thanks to the availability of ARV treatment. AHOPE meant that there was finally a hope for HIV positive children and they were no longer being sent to a place to be cared for before they died.

It was against this backdrop that I contacted AHOPE for Children and scheduled a site visit to meet with the director Mengesha Shibru during my reporting fellowship in Ethiopia this past June.

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ONE/RED Bracelet

Buy (RED) – A Powerful Way Consumers Can Support the End of AIDS

During my visit to the Social Good Summit in New York City last month, I attended a meeting with a group of bloggers to learn more about (RED), a division of the ONE Campaign that works to eliminate AIDS through consumer activism. (RED) was founded in 2006 by Bono and Bobby Shriver as a way to engage people and businesses all over the world to fight the greatest challenge of our time – the fight to end AIDS.

(RED) partners with some of the world’s leading brands to offer a changing collection of  iconic (RED) products triggering a unique way of consumer activism:  With each purchase of a (RED) product 50% of the proceeds are donated to The Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria which saves 100,000 lives a month.

Here is an example of how (RED) works on the back end to fight AIDS.

Here is an example of how (RED) works on the back end to fight AIDS.

What is so exciting about (RED) is that they make it so incredibly easy for consumers to give back and support the fight of AIDS. Just simply purchasing a (RED) product starts the process of donating to The Global Fund and every single dollar donated to The Global Fund is donated on the ground meaning there is no overhead. Pretty amazing.

Here is a current list of some of the brands who are going (RED). Remember the GAP collection of t-shirts called Inspi(RED)?

Here is a current list of some of the brands who are going (RED). Remember the GAP collection of t-shirts called Inspi(RED)?

The (RED) Manifesto is a wonderful example at how organizations can inspire people to give back and make a difference in the world. Simply making a purchase of a (RED) product, can help save a person’s life.

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So why is it important to fight HIV/AIDS and why now? Simply because we have never been so close to seeing an end of AIDS before. It is proven that antiretrovirals work. Today, over 6 million people are being effectively treated with antiretrovirals that have a 96% success rate in not transmitting the disease. With action and urgency, it is possible to see the end of the transmission of HIV from mothers to their newborns. We are so close to eradicating this horrible disease.

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Fact:  It is also estimated that nearly 30 million people have died from AIDS-related causes since the beginning of the epidemic (UNAID 2010 report).

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Fact: AIDS remains a global epidemic infecting 2.7 million new people and claiming 2 million lives each year.

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Topsy/AIDS Patient’s Dramatic Recovery from AIDS

An inspiring, one-minute video that was shown on World AIDS Day in 2011 marking the 30th anniversary of the discovery of AIDS.

My dear friend, Jeannine Harvey at The ONE Campaign shared this beautiful story below on the hope that anti-retrovirals can provide to a child born with HIV/AIDS.
I leave you with the story of Motselisi. (RED) first met Motselisi in the rural Nyakosoba Village in Lesotho when she was 11 months old, frail and weak without access to medication. Motselisi was put on anti-retroviral (ARV) medicine, and 90 days later, she had been brought back to life and was a healthy, happy baby. Hers is a true story of the Lazarus Effect and the life-saving power of HIV/AIDS treatment, treatment that costs around 40 cents a day in sub-Saharan Africa. 
Photo credit ONE

(RED) is a division of The ONE Campaign. Learn more at www.red.org.

About The Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria

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December 1st marks World AIDS Day

Every year, in the days and weeks leading up to World AIDS Day on December 1st, (RED) partners with premiere artists and leading brands to shine a global spotlight on the epidemic.  To date, (RED) has raised over $215 million for the elimination of AIDS.

Related Posts and Links:

World AIDS Day 21/1: The Beginning to the End of AIDS? 

Philanthropy Friday: Buying (RED) via Another Jennifer

(RED) is a division of The ONE Campaign. Learn more at www.red.org.
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World AIDS Day 12/1: The beginning to the end of AIDS?

Back in July I wrote a post titled “The End of AIDS: We can’t stop funding now”.  The post was in response to my visit to our nation’s capital on behalf of my advocacy work with Results, a grassroots organization that works to end global poverty. During this visit, I had to opportunity to visit the Global Village at the XIX International AIDS Conference which was being held in the United States for the first time in many years. It was a symbolic event, clearly highlighting America’s leadership as one of the key funders and advocates in fighting AIDS.

This December 1 is World AIDS Day, a day in which the world brings attention to the devastating fact that this global epidemic still infects 2.7 million new people and claims 2 million lives each year.  It is also estimated that nearly 30 million people have died from AIDS-related causes since the beginning of the epidemic (UNAID 2010 report).

Although “these are sobering numbers, this year World AIDS Day comes after a string of stunning scientific advances that has fundamentally altered the possibilities in the fight against HIV/AIDS. The end of the AIDS epidemic is within our grasp”  (Results.org).

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