The Compassion AIDS Initiative has been around for five years. Yep, it’s our fifth anniversary this year!
And in those five years, we have made some incredible strides, taken some risks, and as a result have sustained the lives of more than 20,000 of our beneficiaries, caregivers and siblings.
We began the AIDS Initiative because of an increasing awareness of the impact of HIV and AIDS, specifically in Africa. The virus had already done plenty of damage, and as our programs in Africa grew stronger, we were ready to embark on a new challenge — one that would have an enduring impact, give hope and save countless lives.
As Christians, we felt we had a mandate to do something more to impact the kingdom.
When we first began, the scientific community was still skeptical that Africans with AIDS could take the medicine that would keep them alive. While the sense of urgency was growing, commitments to fund the provision of antiretroviral therapy (ART) were not.
Aware of this tension, and the great need within our own programs, we sought the Lord and felt a confirmation that thrust the AIDS program ahead like never before.
We committed to the provision of the antiretroviral therapy before we really knew the extent of the impact. We just knew that we could not wait any longer, and by providing the highly sought-after ART for those with AIDS, we gave hope to those who prior to this, would not even think about getting tested.
Getting tested was risky, and finding out you were HIV-positive was pretty much suicide, because once that was known to others, a paralyzing stigma and discrimination flourished within communities and ART medicine was unlikely to be acquired.
But with your support we were able to do what few non-government organizations could. As a result, more and more children and their parents have been tested for HIV, as the hope of treatment and support gives them the confidence to do so.
For the first few years, we continued to provide the ART and other essentials, including nutritional support, medical care and testing as well as support for income generation. Our health workers made visiting HIV-positive children and caregivers part of their daily routine.
These were exciting days for the ministry, as we saw the impact of the decision to move this initiative forward. Lives were being sustained. Hope was being given. We went the last mile and that last mile was the difference between life and death.
In just the past few years, a blessing came to the international community. The commitment to providing ART through the Global Fund, PEPFAR (the President’s Emergency Fund for AIDS Relief), President Bush’s lasting legacy, and other multi-lateral organizations has changed the face of this pandemic.
Though the need is still great, and more than 33 million people worldwide are estimated to have HIV, the international commitment to the pandemic has been encouraging.
Following President Bush’s last term, his efforts to contribute to this fight through PEPFAR have been highly lauded. But despite all the commitments, the funds to continue the support are at risk due to the current global economic crisis. As a result, Compassion may once again be in the position of having to provide for ART.
But as Christians with a strong faith in the Lord, we know that if this day comes again, we will do what we did before, and step out in faith to meet the most critical needs of this vulnerable group.
In the meantime, we’ll continue to walk The Last Mile.