Sunday, May 24, 2009

St Augustine’s RC Church HIV/AIDS Support Group

Within 1km of the young Mzuzu UMC is the well-established RC Church which, after participating in our PACCT program, now hosts an HIV/AIDS Support Group meeting on its primises. Edwin… who participated in our training as one of three publically HIV positive pastors, is the Chairman of the Group of 105 men and women currently on ARVs. For over an hour our team interacted with 60 or so people living positively with HIV/AIDS.

I shared the story of how WorldHope Corps began as ‘believers without borders’ crossing over into Macedonia during the war over Kosovo, and how we as Christians are called to cross all kinds of borders, boundaries and obstacles to demonstrate God’s love. Despite geographic, economic, cultural, social, religious, and medical boundaries and borders, “we are all one in Christ Jesus.” Stacey told the story of her friend with HIV, Bob asked focused questions as part of his psycho-social research of abandonment issues, and Gabriel inspired the group with his passion for PACCT.

They had many questions for us, including: “What will we do when the rice and soup you gave us runs out?” “Is it true that a person who is HIV+ have a child?” “Is is true that a child will AIDS will die before 18 years?” “How to prevent HIV being transmitted from mother to child?”… We explained that there were many new procedures and interventions for both transmission and treatment that make HIV no longer a death sentence but a chronic, manageable disease. The oldest in the group was 69 and the youngest 4 years old. The person who has been HIV+ the longest was diagnosed in 1999. 18/60 has lost a family member to AIDS. 30/60 have lost multiple family members to AIDS. 7 had lost a child to AIDS.

Were you supported by family members after you were diagnosed, we asked the group.
One woman, Rose. told her story of how her husband made her pack her bags and sent her away to live wither mother for 11 months. Another woman, Erupy, told how her husband sent their daughter away for 5 years. Edward shared how he had received spiritual support from his family.

St Augustine’s programs included: Adult Group Therapy, Home Care and Visitation. Outreach Educational Campaigns to mobilize for testing and stigma reduction. Income Generating Activities, and Community Gardens. This community group is one of the beneficiary institutions of CHI’s Rice aid. We donated samples of Upper Room pamphlet for use in small groups.