The AIDS epidemic is devastating communities and economies in many of the world’s poorest countries. An estimated two million people died of AIDS-related diseases in 2007 alone and a further 2.7 million were newly infected with HIV, according to UNAIDS.
Overall, an estimated 33 million people worldwide are currently living with HIV. UNAIDS says the vast majority do not realise they have the virus.
But it's not just the scale of the epidemic that is so terrible – it is also the fact that the majority of those who die from AIDS-related diseases are adults in the prime of their lives. Families are losing breadwinners and in rural areas farming has been severely affected. Orphans who take over the farming are often missing out on an education.
Billions of dollars have been poured into prevention and treatment programs. Even so, UNAIDS warns that billions more dollars are needed.
There are reasons for hope. Encouragingly, some of the worst-hit countries in the world – Burkina Faso, Kenya, Haiti and Zimbabwe – have seen a drop in infection levels.
Many community organisations in the developing world are also making a real difference in the response to AIDS, including Anglican Overseas Aid’s partners.
The Diocese of Grahamstown Department of Social Responsibility in South Africa is delivering a program called Building HIV Resilient Communities in Africa with funding from Anglican Overseas Aid and AusAID. The program mentors local groups, and supports people infected and affected by the virus, including through community garden projects.
Anglican Overseas Aid works with the Mothers' Union in the Diocese of Mt Kenya West in Kenya to support a community-based HIV and AIDS awareness program. The program supports a network of community care teams that provide support and care and involves working with the Ministry of Education on peer-educator clubs in secondary schools.
St James' Mission Hospital is a 60-bed Anglican hospital in Lesotho situated in Mantsonyane at an altitude of 2,300 metres. With funding from Anglican Overseas Aid and AusAID, the hospital trains and mobilizes community-based task teams which strive to reduce the spread of HIV and AIDS and provide support and care for people living with HIV. The project focuses in particular on isolated groups such as mountain goat herders.
In Ethiopia, the Afar Pastoralist Development Association launched a HIV and AIDS project in 2006 with funding from Anglican Overseas Aid. The project aims to establish a constructive community response to HIV and AIDS by involving local leaders to reinforce safe behaviour through the sanction of traditional law.
In the Solomon Islands, the Church of Melanesia is seeking to prevent a devastating HIV epidemic with support from Anglican Overseas Aid. The church is raising awareness about transmission and prevention while developing care and support for those who already infected. The number of reported cases is still small but there is much work to be done to prevent an epidemic, as happened in neighbouring Papua New Guinea.
There have been many achievements to date and many people have been helped thanks to the work of our partners. But there is still so much more to do.