Is This 12 Year Old the Next Big Mexican Artist?

12-Year-Old Mexican Artist

“Colors come to my mind in waves. They fill my sight and overflow my senses. I am not okay until I let them out…they only come out through my paintings,” twelve-year-old Hector the artist explains. This is because Hector has a condition called synesthesia which enables him to see plain things as colors. Things like numbers and letters appear to him in color, even when they are black on a white page.

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People Living With HIV or AIDS

Sitting in the humid air inside a tent, listening to the palm leaves sway and the support poles creak, and with her hand clasped on her cheek, Zainabu can still hear the words ringing in her head:

“You have been tested positive for human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), the micro-organism that causes the acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS).”

When the doctor announced the results, a mood of gloom and despair descended on Zainabu. She did not know where to go or what to do.

“It seemed like my life and the livelihood of my children had been cut, since they all depended on me.”

Looking for a shoulder to cry on, Zainabu wondered whom to inform or talk to. Her family and the community had no place for HIV-positive people. “I am an abomination,” Zainabu thought to herself.

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AIDS Crisis in Africa: Living HIV-Positive

My name is Azalea*. I live with my daughter. She is 10, in grade four and is second in her class. So, we are two people in the family. My husband passed away several years ago after a short disease. He was suffering from a liver problem.

We eat rice, millet pastry and beans. As we are only two, I cook once a day. After breakfast, I cook and we eat the meal at noon, and in the evening I reheat the leftovers and we eat.

We are living in an urban area. We have electricity and running water in the community, but only for those who can afford it. We also have a medical center in the neighborhood. Most people sell small items to feed their families.

I discovered my daughter was HIV-positive in 2005. She was suffering from severe chickenpox. The treating doctor suggested us to take an AIDS test. We agreed, and the child was declared HIV-positive.

I do not know how she got the disease, if it was during her birth or during the blood transfusion she got when she was very little.

My daughter does not yet know she is HIV-positive, but I will surely tell her. As I do not know how she will react, I am looking for the right moment to tell her.

I am also HIV-positive, but I do not know how and when I got infected. When the doctor discovered that my daughter was HIV-positive, he encouraged me to take the test and that was how I came to know.

I was very shocked when I found out. I was asking myself how I would live with the disease and how others would react.

Four years after being declared HIV-positive, I am still asking myself the same questions.

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The History of Our AIDS Initiative

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.

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Why Should We Care About AIDS?

There are many sores in our society, but the one that plagues our world like no other is the AIDS pandemic. Those infected with HIV are treated like lepers and often ignored and shunned.

As the Body of Christ, caring about this disease, which is primarily spread through deviant behavior (though certainly not all the time), it is our chance to do the unexpected … to care for those infected with HIV, no matter the cause.

And with World AIDS Day next week, it’s as good a time as any to act like the person who came to save us.

What Is AIDS?

Many people know the terms HIV and AIDS, and often use them interchangeably, and as a result, incorrectly.

HIV is a virus, the human immunodeficiency virus, one of the most persistent and complicated viruses of all time.

This virus causes the body to become immunodeficient, which means that it causes the body’s immune system to be weakened, which makes the body’s defense system not work as well as it could and as a result, become more susceptible to infections.

AIDS stands for acquired immune deficiency syndrome. AIDS is a result of HIV. It is the last stage of an HIV infection.

A person first gets HIV, and then later, usually years later, will develop AIDS.

A CD4 cell is a type of white blood cell sometimes called a T cell. A person is diagnosed as having AIDS when his or her CD4 cell count drops below a certain level, around 300 cells per millimeters cubed (mm3). The normal range is between 500-1,600 CD4 cells per mm3.

Over time, a person with HIV will lose these cells through destruction by HIV. Then that person will be more vulnerable to infections … opportunistic infections.

Without treatment, the opportunistic infections will eventually claim the life of a person infected with HIV. But treatment is available and it is called ART, which stands for antiretroviral therapy.

Because of the advent of ART, those who once were hopeless and waiting to die now have a second chance. But really why should we care about AIDS?

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A Chance to Survive

Hello Compassion Blog readers.

Sorry I haven’t contributed much lately. I’m still here and still handling crisis communications, in case you were wondering. There is something that has been on my mind that I feel compelled to share with you.

I’m gonna step outside my comfort zone for a minute to share this with you. I have Rheumatoid Arthritis. I was diagnosed with it when I was 15, so I’ve had it for half my life, but you’d probably never know it if you met me. I don’t talk about it much. Most people I interact with on a regular basis don’t even know. In the past 10 years, the medical research and pharmaceutical industries have come a long way in treating the disease, and this has allowed me to live to a virtually pain-free, symptom-free life.

But here’s the thing. I have a normal life simply because I happen to have been born in the United States. I have access to powerful drugs. I have insurance to cover the (outrageously high) cost of them. Certainly I am grateful for this, but lately I’ve been thinking about what my life would be like if I were born into poverty in a developing country. What if I was from rural Rwanda? Or a slum in the Philippines? Or a poor community in Nicaragua?

I’d more than likely be totally crippled by now. At 30 years old.

This thought really freaks me out, to be honest with you. I cannot imagine what it would be like to not be able to stand up straight, to walk, or to grip things. To live in constant, life-altering pain. I feel guilty for being happy I was born here. I don’t have to try to live with this disease without the help of drugs. I am not crippled. I assume it’s similar in a way to the guilt a person feels when they survive a car accident where the other passengers died . . . the ugly injustice of it. I understand that God’s ways are higher than our ways, but I struggle to understand why He chooses for some — why He chose ME — to be born into affluence and why He chooses some to be born into poverty. It’s not fair.

Nowhere is this injustice more evident than in the fight against HIV and AIDS. December 1 was World AIDS Day, and Brianne told you about our AIDS Initiative. The amazing thing about this program is that it literally restores justice to an unjust world. Without access to antiretroviral drugs, those battling AIDS in poverty-stricken countries fight an unwinnable war. By providing the antiretroviral therapy, Compassion allows children with death sentences another chance at life. A chance that, had they been born here, they would have had simply by virtue of their nationality.

If anyone is in the position to get this, it’s Godfrey. He understands that he is alive today because Compassion is fighting the injustice of HIV and AIDS in Uganda. His life is his testimony.

Compassion’s AIDS Initiative is more than just drugs. It’s nutritional support. It’s the critical laboratory testing. It’s psychosocial support. It’s treatment of opportunistic infections. It’s transportation assistance. It’s income generation. It’s housing repair. It’s all the opportunities that a person suffering from HIV here in the U.S. would have.

The AIDS Initiative essentially levels the playing field to give every victim of HIV — no matter where they were born — an equal chance to survive this devastating disease.

Give someone a chance to survive by supporting the AIDS Initiative today.

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The Stigma of HIV and AIDS

One of the huge challenges facing people living with HIV around the world is not only the physical illness, but the overwhelming stigmatization and discrimination that exists in many countries.

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World AIDS Day

Poverty is multi-faceted. It is much more intricate than just a lack of money.

And like many other aspects of poverty, HIV and AIDS have the ability to take a frightening toll on children.

Today is World AIDS Day, and I’m taking it as an opportunity to let you know how committed we are to fighting the disease.

It begins with our AIDS Initiative program, which is working on a grassroots level through the local church to take on the AIDS pandemic, one child at a time.

Ok, pause.

AIDS Initiative, pandemic, poverty . . . I don’t like throwing around these words. It is easy to just roll over the keyboard and punch out the words. But can you imagine? I mean really, can you even imagine what it is like to be infected with HIV or affected by AIDS?

To better understand the effect HIV and AIDS have on people, particularly people in the developing world, and to get a better glimpse into what the Lord is doing through Compassion, I think we need to unpack a few details. I hope your mind is engaged and your heart is prepared because I am about to give you just that.

Now, as I was saying, our AIDS Initiative works to aid one child at a time. For example, this child:

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Focus on the Forest

I’ve been working at Compassion for eight months, and I dig it. I dig it like Dig ‘Em digs Honey Smacks. There’s good people here, plenty of parking, a fantastic view of Pikes Peak, stellar lunch specials at the New Dehli Café and of course, a job that makes a difference.

Howwwever, I work on a computer. And I tend to work on that computer all day long, with nary a break. I don’t often make it to the café to enjoy my self-serve special for $4.99, and it really is special because I have a hand that serves and serves and serves.

I also frequently forget to take a breath and enjoy the view or even say cheerio to my co-workers. I glue my rear to my seat and my eyes to my monitor and there I stay for the day. Ugh!

And when I’m in this all-work mode, I often lose sight of why I’m working. I only see trees, no forest.

But all throughout the Global Ministry Center hangs artwork created by children in our sponsorship program. It’s amazing artwork, not only because of the talent it illustrates but because it exists.

What if Compassion wasn’t in this child’s life? Would this talent have had an opportunity to develop? Would the art be given the chance to enrich other people lives, like it does mine when I scrape my eyes from my computer screen?

Here’s what I’m talking about.

[flickr-gallery mode=”photoset” photoset=”72157631992881294″]

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