Helping People Survive HIV/AIDS
Robert Makunu, Deputy HIV Unit Manager of Catholic Relief Services’ office in Kenya, kicked-off AIDS Awareness Week on November 26 with a poignant discussion. A large crowd packed Falvey Memorial Library’s lounge to hear Makunu’s lecture, “Restoring Hope in Africa: Community-based Care for HIV/AIDS.” His presentation detailed some of the causes and devastating effects of the disease, especially in the impoverished areas of Africa. Joyce Zavarich, theology professor and associate director for both Campus Ministry and the Center for Peace and Justice Education, also spoke. Candice Harris, a staffer from CRS’ Northeast Regional office, spoke briefly as well.
As a former medical student, Robert Makunu has witnessed firsthand both the social stigma and emotional impact attached to HIV/AIDS. His discussion pinpointed some of the causes for its rapid spread in Africa, such as the locals’ practice of folk traditions, poor communication, insufficient treatment, poverty and the deep-seated fear of the disease.
Makunu’s work with CRS focuses primarily on the Orphans and Vulnerable Children program. Providing “the children left behind,” as Makunu calls them, the proper care now imparts the tools they will need to live healthy, safe and disease-free lives in the future. To those suffering with HIV/AIDS, CRS provides relief through anti-retroviral therapy, community support and home-based care.
After Makunu concluded his discussion, Professor Zavarich spoke about her personal experience with CRS as she participated in the U.S. delegation trip to Zambia this past year. Candice Harris then described the importance of taking action in order to make a positive impression on those affected by HIV/AIDS. Harris mentioned that the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief, or PEPFAR I, has been key to CRS’s success in Africa. Unfortunately, PEPFAR I expires next fall. CRS is urging members of Congress to fund an additional five years through PEPFAR II.
One of CRS’ main goals is to prove that HIV is not a death sentence; CRS offers hope for those who are both infected and affected by the disease.
Contributed by Gina McFadden