Africa: Church's AIDS Ministry Expands, Calls for More Regional Coordinators
March 13, 2007 Nairobi, Kenya .... [AAIM/ANN Staff]
The AIDS International Ministry (AAIM), set up by the Seventh-day Adventist world church in 2003 and based in Johannesburg, South Africa to minister to those on the continent of Africa suffering from AIDS, may have started small. But at its fourth annual tri-regional advisory held Feb. 12 to 14 in Nairobi, Kenya, its growth was evident. When Drs. Oscar and Eugenia Giordano began directing the office, just four delegates showed up for AAIM's first advisory. Three years later, that number has jumped to 22.
AAIM's National HIV AIDS Coordinators came to the meetings from several African countries
Much of that growth hinges on the dedication of HIV/AIDS coordinators, said Dr. Oscar Giordano. "The difference in the progress of projects in regions where coordinators have been appointed compared to areas where they have not yet been appointed was dramatic."
At the advisory, country HIV/AIDS coordinators shared with the delegates the progress of numerous programs in their regions; programs such as the care and support of AIDS orphans, home-based care for the sick, education programs to combat discrimination and stigma and income-generating projects designed to assist with poverty alleviation such as beekeeping, raising goats, dressmaking and the establishment of bakeries.
During one of the meetings, "Emphasis on HIV Prevention: The Role of the Youth," Dr. Eugenia Giordano stressed that "churches should create a loving, caring and supporting environment for the youth; an environment where adults are not judgmental but accepting, and treat the youth with respect, accepting them as young but nevertheless full members of the church. Establishing meaningful relationships and interactions with the youth helps them to build up resilience to HIV/AIDS, by avoiding the high risk behaviors that lead to the HIV infection and other undesirable conditions such as alcoholism and drug addictions."
She added: "If we help by organizing the youth in support groups, with a strong spiritual foundation, they will go out and work in the surrounding communities as peer educators. As a result our Adventist youth will gain knowledge for themselves while they are conveying the messages to others. They will be a positive influence on others and will themselves be spiritually revitalized."
At the end of the meetings the participants compiled a final document of recommendations. These included: open and honest discussions about human sexuality, the appointment of dedicated HIV/AIDS coordinators in particularly impacted areas, and the collection of special offerings to financially sustain the work of those HIV/AIDS coordinators and church-based HIV/AIDS support groups. They also suggested each Adventist university in areas of the world heavily affected by HIV/AIDS should offer a general requirement curriculum on the disease.
"I am impressed how this ministry has grown so fast. As long as we surround ourselves with God's power we will continue making a difference," said Dr. Fesaha Tsegaye, director of the Health Ministries department for the Adventist church in the East Central Africa region.
AAIM is now actively working in 14 countries across Africa.