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LATEST NEWS
Previous News (click to follow link)

Adventist HIV/AIDS programs supporting affected African communities

Top Adventist leaders in Southern Africa tested for HIV/AIDS

SDA Church begins HIV/AIDS intervention program among the Maasai people in Kenya

Adventist Grandmothers Welcome the Queen of Lesotho to an HIV/AIDS Program

The Challenge of the HIV Pandemic and the Healing Power of Hope…

Africa: Church's AIDS Ministry Expands, Calls for More Regional Coordinators
United States: College Campus Gains New Awareness of HIV, AIDS
Don't 'File and Forget' Church's Agenda, World Church President Urges Members
Be Participants, Not Spectators, World Church Leader Says to Young People
Adventist World President Calls For an 'Accepting Church,' Lights Candle to Commemorate World AIDS Day
Over 100 Adventist Church Members Get HIV/AIDS Training
Adventist Ministry Mends Lives, Empowers Women
Association of Adventist Women Recognised Women that Contributed to Humanitarian Work
Adventist Physicians Attend International Aids Conference
Adventists Call for End to Discrimination Against People with HIV, AIDS
Voluntary Counseling & Testing Center In Swaziland and Lesotho Sewing Workshops
Class Designed to Reverse Behavior Leading to HIV/AIDS
Helping HIV/AIDS Victims; Church Programs Expand to Rwanda
Kids Say 'No' to HIV/AIDS Through TV Show
What Would Jesus Do for HIV/AIDS Patients?
Let's Talk with Dr Paulsen

 

 

 

 

Adventist HIV/AIDS programs supporting affected African communities
AIDS International Ministry, ADRA teach prevention, provide livelihood for infected populations
 

1 Dec 2009 -  Silver Spring, Maryland, United States ... [Megan Brauner/ANN]


For some Seventh-day Adventist-run organizations, the December 1 observance of World AIDS Day lasts all year long.
Eugenia and Oscar Giordano, assistant and executive directors for Adventist AIDS International Ministry (AAIM), helped establish the organization in 2003. The couple, both medical doctors, said they felt a need to address the lack of understanding of and support for individuals infected with HIV/AIDS.
"Six years ago, our churches in Africa were in almost complete denial on issues about HIV and AIDS," Oscar Giordano said. "Today, there is no more silence ... in a great number of our churches in Africa. The more people know about HIV/AIDS, the more they talk and commit themselves for action, the less the virus will continue to spread."
AAIM covers the East-Central and Southern Africa/Indian Ocean regions of the continent. The organization recently expanded to include the West-Central area of Africa, providing HIV/AIDS sensitivity training for local church leadership. The regional church leadership is planning to provide the same training for 11 other countries in the West-Central area, Giordano said.
"According to the data available from church surveys and WHO HIV/AIDS related death rates, we estimate that approximately 500 to 600 Adventist church members are dying from AIDS every month in Africa," Giordano said.
In 2009, AAIM started an AIDS prevention campaign that will cover most of the continent by 2010, Giordano said.
"The main goal is to make sure that each of the Adventist churches has reliable information on HIV and AIDS as a mean of prevention, and that all of our church members have access to it."
AAIM also provides sewing machines and materials to HIV/AIDS infected individuals as a means of income and sets up support groups to check on infected individuals in their communities, Giordano said. The support groups, sometimes including doctors, assess the situations and make sure the individuals are properly following their treatment procedures, he said.
The Adventist Development and Relief Agency (ADRA), the humanitarian arm of the Seventh-day Adventist Church, also provides support and awareness for individuals affected by HIV/AIDS.
"Around the world, ADRA offers HIV preventative education programs, HIV/AIDS testing, and counseling services to reduce the impact of AIDS on individuals and families," said Charles Sandefur, president of ADRA International. "Through these efforts, ADRA expresses its call to biblical social responsibility and considers it a vital task to help eradicate this terrible disease."
ADRA's five-part approach to HIV/AIDS includes programs addressing education, prevention, testing and treatment, ADRA leadership said. One example, the Abstinence and Behavior Change program, provides information and assistance to at-risk youth and young adults in Kenya.
The $12 million project is funded by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID). The project teaches young people about dangers associated with high-risk sexual behavior, including coercive and paid sex, and raises awareness about monogamy and abstinence.
Another ADRA project in Kenya provides school supplies, food, clothes and vocational training to AIDS orphans.
ADRA also works with child-headed households in Swaziland, which make up 15 percent of the country's total households. One in three adults in the country are HIV-positive, resulting in a high numbers of orphans, ADRA workers said. The program sends trained caregivers to the child-headed homes to assess the situation and provide a support network.

 

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Top Adventist leaders in Southern Africa tested for HIV/AIDS
Seventh-day Adventist Church leadership in Sub-Saharan Africa were counseled and tested for HIV on November 2 in a public statement that the HIV/AIDS pandemic requires practical attention in the community. "It's good to know my status," said Paul Ratsara, president...


4 Nov 2008, - Johannesburg South Africa, ... [Rajmund Dabrowski/ANN]

 

Seventh-day Adventist Church leadership in Sub-Saharan Africa were counseled and tested for HIV on November 2 in a public statement that the HIV/AIDS pandemic requires practical attention in the community.

"It's good to know my status," said Paul Ratsara, president of the church's Southern Africa-Indian Ocean region (SID). Saying he wanted to do his part in stamping out HIV/AIDS, Ratsara was joined by his wife, Denise, for a private and voluntary counseling and testing session and was one of the 54 leaders representing 23 countries in the region.

A year-end leadership meeting in Johannesburg devoted a full day of its six-day agenda to discuss ways to address the HIV/AIDS issue, which affects nearly every family in the region.

Members of the executive committee represent a community of more than 3 million Adventists worshiping in 20,000 congregations. SID is regarded as one of the fastest growing areas of the church globally.

"In all, this is a statement, as leaders, that we are taking this situation seriously," Ratsara said. "Though we are making some progress in combating the pandemic, like in Zimbabwe, for example, the situation is serious."

"We baptize thousands of people, but many of them carry the virus, perhaps 20 percent," said Dr. Alex Llaguno, the church's Health Ministries director for the region.

"The church must intensify its efforts to practically turn the situation around," Llaguno said.

In a decision to systemically address issues in the SID territories, Rhoda Nthani, a public health professional was introduced as a full-time HIV/AIDS Coordinator for the region. She will implement a strategic plan and policy to work with local leadership and implement guidelines and programs already established in the Sub-Saharan region of Africa.

In 2001, the Adventist world church established a center for the Adventist AIDS International Ministry in Johannesburg.

"Our approach is to recognize and promote an approach that each Adventist church becomes a support center for the community," said center director Dr. Oscar Giordano.

Giordano, assisted by his wife, Dr. Eugenia Giordano, presented a training program that involved members of the SID Executive Committee and led in having an Adventist Declaration on HIV/AIDS adopted by the group. The declaration includes a commitment of each leader to engage in HIV/AIDS prevention and to "speak out against stigma and discrimination of people living with and affected by HIV."

Evaluating what the church must address, Tsepiso Sesioana, a professional psychotherapist from Lesotho expressed a concern that so many church members continue to resort to being judgmental when confronted with someone's plight.

"As a church we are facing a dilemma," Sesioana said. "Where does the pastor go if he is HIV positive? His ministry will be affected.

"There's silence in the church about the HIV/AIDS issue, and many are hiding behind the "rightness in behavior" and morality. This must be addressed," he added.

Attending the meetings, Matthew Bediako, secretary of the world church, agreed that the attitudes in the church must undergo change.

"It is unfortunate that we tend to be very judgmental," Bediako said. "Especially when it comes to HIV and AIDS we immediately conclude that the victim has been unfaithful and therefore we condemn them. The church, instead of showing mercy and compassion, we avoid them, we don't want to be even with them."

He referred to a statement made by women from Lesotho, who said they couldn't turn to their church for help because members didn't care.

"It touches us," Bediako said. "[So,] what is our mission on this earth? Our mission is to touch people. If Christ were here on earth as he touched lepers in his time, I believe today not only would he visit AIDS victims, he would hug them, he would welcome him to his presence."

Bediako appealed to the church to "show compassion, love to our sisters and brothers who are victims of this disease." Johannesburg South Africa, Rajmund Dabrowski/ANN

 

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SDA Church begins HIV/AIDS intervention program among the Maasai people in Kenya

November 2007 - Johannesburg .... [AAIM Staff]

Many years before they were called to initiate and develop the Seventh-day Adventist Church’s response to the challenge of HIV and AIDS in Africa, Drs. Oscar and Eugenia Giordano were privileged to meet with Soiyet Koisaba in her traditional Maasai home in Ongata Rongai, a village outside Nairobi Kenya.

 
Dr. Eugenia Giordano with Adventist Maasai Women in Maasai-Land, Kenya. [Photos courtesy of AAIM]
 

That meeting took place in 1992 when the Giordanos, while on a visit to Maxwell Adventist Academy went with a group of Academy staff, led by Gwen Edwards, on a mission to bring the good news of the gospel to the Academy’s next door neighbours.  The neighbours lived in a small traditional Maasai village adjacent to the academy.  Two years later in 1994 the Giordanos were privileged to be back at Maxwell Academy when Soiyet together with a number of other people from her village became the first members of the Maasai tribe to be baptised at the academy.  Some time after that the Maasai people including Soiyet relocated to the village of Kajiado near the Tanzanian border.

In January 2004 the Giordanos opened the Adventist AIDS International Ministry (AAIM) office in Johannesburg, South Africa.  They initiated and developed a comprehensive program that addresses the many challenges of HIV and AIDS, by encouraging every church to become an HIV/AIDS Support Centre for the Community – bringing Hope and Healing to those infected and/or affected by HIV and AIDS.  In the three and a half years since starting the AAIM initiative the Giordanos have extended the program to 16 African and Indian Ocean countries, establishing many support centres, community programs to help care for the thousands of AIDS orphans, income generating projects for women affected by AIDS and voluntary counselling and testing (VCT) centres.

Several AAIM projects have already been started in and around Nairobi and in a program to extend the concept to many more churches in that country, the Giordanos conducted a training seminar for 137 participants at the Ongata Rongai SDA church during May 2007.  They noted that the Maasai village no longer existed but they were excited to enrol Soiyet Koisaba and 9 more Maasai, two of whom were infected by HIV, as seminar participants.

The team of Maasai participants were brought to the training program by Solomon Lenana who, in a voluntary capacity, fills the role of pastor.  Solomon said that AIDS was of great concern to the Maasai people who, like many in Africa, were being ravaged by the pandemic.  He said that there were approximately 600 Maasai SDA members in his territory but that this was the first ever church based HIV/AIDS support or intervention initiative among the these people.

Many Maasai people continue to live a very traditional life, living in arid parts of the country where water is scarce, fruit and vegetables are almost unheard of and their diet consists almost exclusively of milk which they drink at least three times a day.

The Maasai delegates proved to be very enthusiastic seminar participants recognising specific cultural challenges that they faced, such as the very sensitive issue of female circumcision which is still broadly practiced amongst many Maasai.  During the seminar the participants developed a culturally sensitive HIV/AIDS intervention project, designed to meet the specific requirements of their people.  They then presented their action plan to all the other seminar participants.

The Maasai participants were so pleased with the knowledge that they had gained and their new-found ability to make a difference in their communities that invested on Drs. Oscar and Eugenia honorary Maasai names.  Eugenia was given the name Naipota which means ‘full of knowledge’ and Oscar was given the name Saruni which means “the one who came to help us’.

Projects such as these are extending Jesus’ method of offering hope to the hopeless, food to the hungry, love and support to the lonely, to many of those in the world who are most in need of this.

Last month of November 2007 this group of Maasai received funds and materials to start their projects.

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Adventist Grandmothers Welcome the Queen of Lesotho to an HIV/AIDS Program

September 2007 - Johannesburg .... [AAIM Staff]

Singing and dancing with almost one hundred grandmothers from Seventh-day Adventist Churches spread across the country, Her Majesty the Queen of the Kingdom of Lesotho praised the Church for its efforts in combating the effects of AIDS in the Kingdom.  She said that it was her wish that other denominations would follow the example of the Seventh-day Adventist Church.  This joyful occasion was the culmination to a three day training seminar in which ninety-two grandmothers from across Lesotho were given training and then tasked with setting up Grandmothers Clubs in their communities.

 
Her Majesty, the Queen of Lesotho, celebrating with 92 grandmothers at the closing program on Sunday, September 9, 2007. [Photos courtesy of AAIM]
 

The tragedy of AIDS is destroying lives and devastating families across the globe but with more than two thirds of the worlds’ infected, Africa is the continent most severely impacted by the pandemic.

As the Adventist Church’s frontline response to the challenge of AIDS in Africa, Adventist AIDS International Ministry (AAIM) is bring hope and healing to those infected and/or affected by AIDS.  Serving through out the continent, Drs. Oscar and Eugenia Giordano, the directors of AAIM have witnessed first hand the devastating impact of AIDS on families and communities and can bear testimony to the healing power of love and acceptance.

While working with affected families Eugenia became aware that a large portion of the burden of AIDS was born by grandmothers and because of lack of knowledge on HIV prevention and how to best care for the infected, they too were at risk of infection.

In traditional African families, grandmothers are a source of wisdom, comfort and counsel; a point of stability around which the extended family rotates.  In fulfilling this role she could expect to enjoy the support of her children and the extended family.  Instead of being able to rest and enjoy the support of the younger generations many grandmothers are, as a result of AIDS, being forced to assume burdensome responsibilities. 

Grandmothers are compelled to fulfil the multiple roles of caregiver to their sick or dying children, parent to their grandchildren, and provider for the entire family.  In many instances these duties and responsibilities are not limited to caring for their own families but include members of the larger community.  This awesome task is complicated by a lack of knowledge and an absence of support and comfort for the grandmothers.  Recognising this need, AAIM set about the task of establishing Grandmothers’ Clubs that could act as a source of council and information for grandmothers and provide them with an opportunity to share their cares and concerns with others in a similar situation.

The SDA church in Lesotho is blessed in having energetic and enthusiastic members who are willing to work with dedication to share the love of Jesus with those in need.  One such member is Evelyn Nkhethoa. 

When Eugenia shared the idea of Grandmothers’ Clubs with Evelyn, Evelyn became excited by the idea and set about developing the concept with a passion.  Evelyn badgered pastors, motivated sponsors and inspired politicians and as a result of her tireless efforts on September 7 this year (2007), Ninety Two Grandmothers from Churches across Lesotho gathered for a three days workshop at which they were trained in the skills required to set up Grandmothers’ Clubs throughout the Kingdom.

The extent of the burden placed on grandmothers was again evidenced by the Giordanos during the workshop.  When asked who was currently taking care of friends or family affected by AIDS, almost every participant raised their hand. 

Their stories are illustrated by that of one of the participants, Maborotho, who having lost here daughter to AIDS is now taking care of here two grandchildren.  In addition to this task Maborotho is assisting a neighbour, also a grandmother, who having lost one daughter to AIDS in February and a second during May is now caring for four grandchildren, the oldest of these children being only seven years old and the youngest a babe in arms.  The fathers of all these children have previously died from AIDS.  Instead of having time to grieve for their own children, these grandmothers now have to fulfil the role of parent and provider to their grandchildren.

Through the workshop the grandmothers received training in home based care, nutrition, care for orphans and vulnerable children, and psychosocial support.  In addition to the educational instruction, the participants were enriched spiritually through music and bible study and their physical needs were not forgotten as each participant was able to enjoy three wholesome and nutritious meals each day.  On Sabbath the participants were especially privileged to be able to enjoy a banquet lunch sponsored by the First Lady of Lesotho and at the end of the conference each participant left with a hamper of foods and hygiene products.

Besides the valuable knowledge gained during the training workshop, for most of the participants the highlight of the program was the closing ceremony which was addressed by the Queen.  She arrived at the meeting accompanied by a marching band and a guard of honour provided, by the local Pathfinder Club.  Addressing the meeting the Queen praised the elderly for their dedication, service and sacrifice, and urged children to honour their grandparents for their sacrifice on behalf of their children and grandchildren.  The queen urged the participants to share the knowledge they had gained with their communities, she thanked the Church for the work it was doing and said that she hoped that this would not just be the end of the seminar but rather the beginning of a great work.

At the end of Her Majesty’s speech the band struck up a lively tune and as the crowd ululated with joy and excitement, the queen came down from the podium and together with her subjects danced for joy at the opportunity to be able to bring love and comfort to those in need.  People across the country were able to hear of the efforts of the Church as the closing ceremony was given prominent coverage on national television. 

NOTE: AAIM is currently in the process of taking this initiative of Grandmothers Clubs to other countries in Africa.

 

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The Challenge of the HIV Pandemic and the Healing Power of Hope…

July 2007 - Johannesburg .... [AAIM Staff]

 

Sick people are usually surrounded, embraced and encouraged, by the love of their families and supported by their communities.  Church members rally to assist, enveloping the affected in a warm blanket of love.  At least this is what we acknowledge the true Christian response should be.  Or what the Christian response should normally be, however the condition of HIV/AIDS is seen by many as an exception to the rule.  Many church members seem to believe that it is acceptable or even desirable, to censure those infected by HIV.

 

The stigma surrounding HIV and AIDS remains a reality in many regions, and sadly this stigma is often strongest in Christian communities.  Church leaders in some of the worst affected countries in the world, situated in Southern Africa, have received sincere questions from local church boards, seeking advice on what the church should do “to” rather than what they should do “for” the afflicted.  This air of condemnation adds to the already significant burden of those infected and/or affected by HIV and AIDS.

 

The challenge of HIV and AIDS has grown to the extent that AIDS related causes are now the leading cause of death in Africa and the fourth largest cause of death worldwide[1].  The number of people infected and affected continues to increase in both Africa and other parts of the world.  A recent news report noted that for every one person entering therapy, six people were newly infected.[2]

 

Adventist AIDS International Ministry (AAIM) (a mission established by the General Conference of the Seventh-day Adventist Church, as the Church’s response to the challenge of HIV and AIDS) is implementing a program to ensure that SDA churches become havens of hope and healing, rather than centres of censure and rejection. 

AAIM opened its office in Johannesburg South Africa during January 2004.  This office serves the three Adventist African Divisions that together cover sub-Saharan Africa.  While only about 10 % of the world’s population lives in sub-Saharan Africa, the region is home of approximately 64% or in other words almost two thirds of all of the people in the world now living with HIV[3]

 

The AAIM program has in the past three and a half years already been introduced in 17 African and Indian Ocean countries, and is expected to reach its twentieth country by the end of August 2007.  AAIM’s goal is to empower churches to be able to meet the challenges of the pandemic at a grassroots level, and to help church members reach their surrounding communities as was shown by Jesus to be the response required of Christians where in Mathew 25:35-36 He said, “For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in,  I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.”[4] The program provides churches with the tools necessary to assist their communities in providing Prevention, Care and Impact Mitigation.

 

AAIM’s action plan is to encourage, and then empower churches so that they can become HIV/AIDS support centres for their local community through the organization of “Church Based HIV/AIDS Support Groups.”  Church and community sensitization programs precede the mobilization of the congregation.  Love and compassion are the main drivers of this plan.  In carrying the program forward the directors of AAIM, Drs. Oscar and Eugenia Giordano, have on numerous occasions witnessed first hand the incredible healing power of love.

 

Medical personal are able to provide powerful therapies, capable of ensuring that people infected with HIV can live long and productive lives.  Unfortunately the efficacy of treatment is often impaired by the stigma surrounding the disease.  The infected are reluctant to seek medical assistance until the disease has progressed beyond the point at which treatment can be effectively implemented.  For those who do receive good treatment, on time, the effect of rejection is still a broken spirit leading to an impaired life.  The directors of AAIM have regularly noted that many of those infected with HIV are not dying from the infection, but rather from a lack of appropriate care, nutrition and support.  They have found that social support is a key factor in the improvement of the health of a person living with HIV and AIDS or any other chronic disease.

 

An example of the healing power of hope was powerfully experienced in the life of Maseeng. (See her story on the homepage) The directors of AAIM met Maseeng in Lesotho when she participated in a sewing seminar, provided by AAIM as part of an income generating project for those affected and/or infected by HIV.  When they met Maseeng she was already receiving treatment with ARVs, but despite this she remained thin, pale and when talking to her one could immediately sense that she was hurting.

 

Throughout the seminar, as the participants felt loved and accepted, they began to share their personal stories with the rest of the group.  As Maseeng realised that she was loved and accepted for who she was, she too began to open up to the group.  She told them that she had once been a school teacher but that she had been infected with HIV.  With the progression of the infection she became weaker, and discouraged to the point where she just wanted to give up on life.  Through the love, acceptance and prayers of the seminar-participants, Maseeng found healing form loneliness and despair.  This acceptance brought about a dramatic change in Maseeng.  By the end of the seminar she was not only smiling and singing with the rest of the ladies but dancing for joy!

 

Maseeng decided that she was not just going to lie down and die but that she was going to live positively with HIV.  She dedicated her life to making a difference to others.  Now in the mornings, in a room the size of a single garage Maseeng runs a pre-primary school for over 50 children.  In the afternoons, after the children have left, she runs a sewing class for ladies from her village, and on Sabbaths this same room is an Adventist church to 13 people.  Looking at her broad smile and listening to her infectious laughter it is difficult to believe that she is living with HIV.  Maseeng is a living centre of love and hope, and just one of many examples of the healing power of love and acceptance.[5]

 

By establishing HIV support centres, Adventist Churches can make a very real contribution, not only to the spiritual wellbeing of those infected by HIV but also to their physical wellbeing.  The support centres can help combat ignorance, ensure that those infected seek treatment before that disease progresses to far, assist in ensuring treatment preparedness and help to motivate those on treatment adhere to the prescribed treatment regime.  With in-excess of four million members, in more than sixteen thousand churches and groups spread throughout Africa, together with hundreds of educational and medical institutions, the Adventist church is in a position to make a very significant contribution to the fight against HIV and AIDS in Africa.  Following the introduction of AAIM programs, silence, denial and the stigma of HIV/AIDS has been broken in hundreds of SDA congregations.  Church members have increasingly become involved in helping those infected and/or affected by the epidemic.

 

AAIM implements training programs for Pastors, Elders, Church and Community Members.  The focus of these programs is on HIV/AIDS Education & Prevention, HIV and AIDS Counselling, Care (Home Based Care and Orphan Care), and Impact Mitigation through income generating activities that empower people infected and affected by HIV sustain themselves and live dignified lives.

 

AAIM has programs for youth, and other significantly affected groups such as women.  There is also a program for older women; especially grandmothers who receive special attention from AAIM with the establishment of “grandmothers’ clubs.”  It is important to recognise that grandmothers in Africa are the primary caregivers for their children infected with HIV, and then when they die the grandmothers continue to care for the orphaned grand-children.  Without proper knowledge the grandmothers can themselves easily become infected.

 

Through the work of AAIM several Unions and Conferences in Africa have appointed National HIV/AIDS Coordinators that are helping to ensure the success of the HIV/AIDS programs in their region.

AAIM takes care to promote the “Jesus’ Method”.  E.G. White wrote: “Christ’s method alone will give true success in reaching the people.  The Saviour mingled with men as one who desired their good. He showed His sympathy for them, ministered to their needs, and won their confidence. Then He bade them ‘Follow me’.” [6]

 

AAIM is bringing hope and saving lives one person at a time, field by field, church by church, member by member, on a one to one basis.

 

AAIM’s dream is to see our churches transformed into “Centres of Hope and Healing”, where people can come with the confidence that they will be received with love and acceptance.

 

 

This article was written by Dr. Oscar Giordano, MD., MPH. – Executive Director of AAIM, Dr. Eugenia Giordano, MD., MPH. - Associate Director of AAIM, and Courtenay Harebottle - AAIM’s HIV/AIDS Consultant. July 2007.-


[1] The Global Fund. July 2007 Fact Sheet accessible at: www.theglobalfund.org/en/about/aids

[2] Dr. Anthony Fauci, Director of the U.S. National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, his presentation at the Fourth International AIDS Society Conference in Sydney, Australia. July 2007

[3] Joint United Nations Program on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS). 2006 report on the global AIDS epidemic. Geneva, Switzerland: UNAIDS; 2006

[4] The New International Version, (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House) 1984.

[5] Maseeng’s Story. AAIM’s website accessible at: www.aidsministry.com/devotionals

[6] E.G. White in her book, The Ministry of Healing, p. 143. 1905

 

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Africa: Church's AIDS Ministry Expands, Calls for More Regional Coordinators
March 13, 2007
Nairobi, Kenya .... [AAIM/ANN Staff]
 

Helping AIDS orphas are just one of the projects that Adventist AIDS International Ministry have taken on. [Photos courtesy of AAIM]

 
Delegates to the Adventist AIDS International Ministry annual advisory have grown from just four only four years ago to 22.

 
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.

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United States: College Campus Gains New Awareness of HIV, AIDS
January 23, 2007 Riverside, California, United States .... [Taashi Rowe/ANN]

 
Dr. Eugenia Giordano (left) spoke of the work the Adventist Church is doing with HIV and AIDS patients in Africa. [Photos: Noelle Giordano/ANN]

 
About 1,000 students attended the presentation, some made commitments to become involved in AIDS work.

 
In an Old Testament studies class she focused on the stigma of AIDS. In a class on social work she focused on women as the face of AIDS and the impact it has on the family. In an art class she talked about how artwork is used to inform the pubic about AIDS. She attended business that focused on social entrepreneurship and what business can do to affect the AIDS cause.

No, she's not a teacher. She's Eugenia Giordano M.D., associate director of Adventist AIDS International Ministry (AAIM) and has spent several days as guest lecturer at La Sierra University, a Seventh-day Adventist institution of higher education in Riverside, California. With each class she visited Dr. Giordano shared with students and teachers how HIV and AIDS impacts different facets of society. Dr. Giordano, along with her husband Oscar, who is also a medical doctor, oversee AAIM from Johannesburg, South Africa.

AAIM was started in 2003 to help Seventh-day Adventists in Africa deal with the scourge of HIV and AIDS, which claims the lives of 12 church members daily. Today AAIM has put down roots in local communities with programs that provide income and that open the doors of the church to those with the disease. Heide Ford, director of the Women's Resource Center (WRC) based on campus, invited Dr. Giordano to speak at the school after hearing about the work of AAIM.

On Jan. 23, Giordano spoke at an assembly in front of 1000 students about the global issue of AIDS and what the Adventist church is doing to combat the problem. The assembly was followed by a question-and-answer segment in which Dr. Giordano shared ways in which students can help those suffering from HIV or AIDS.

"I had the impression students have heard about HIV and AIDS in the United States but here it is kind of controlled through medication and treatment. Many don't understand that it is a global crisis," said Dr. Giordano. "It's not just in Africa; it is everywhere."

As for how the talk will affect La Sierra students, Ford said, "Some students will think 'it's no big deal' but for others it may plant a seed for something down the road."

She added that she was struck by the look on one of the young women's face during the presentation. "She had such a stunned look on her face when Dr. Giordano showed a slide saying 6,000 people die every day in Africa from AIDS."

"I was moved to tears to see the reality of the AIDS crisis especially how it affects the orphans," a student said during one of the classroom visits. "I think students need to be reminded of the AIDS crisis," another student said.

"You're an answer to prayers," Jodi Cahill, faculty sponsor for Students in Free Enterprise (SIFE), a student business group, told Dr. Giordano.

Some SIFE students were already involved in doing humanitarian work in Africa and were looking to do more projects. They were eager to partner with Dr. Giordano on the AIDS project.

Talking to students on college campuses often results in action on their part, Dr. Giordano said. In 2005 when she spoke to students at Loma Linda University and Medical Center, another Adventist institution, students went on a mission trip to Swaziland and raised funds to build a clinic for those affected with the disease. Giordano said many students are still involved today.

"One of the goals of the WRC is to highlight the incredible things that women are using their gifts to do in the world at large," Ford said, explaining how Dr. Giordano was invited to speak on campus. Dr. Giordano follows in the footsteps of Alice Ouma who also spoke about AIDS last year on the La Sierra University campus. Ouma spoke about the work she and her husband James were doing to help Kenyan widows and children orphaned by AIDS.

Ford says the response to Dr. Giordano's visit was overwhelmingly positive. She noted that many students asked how they can become involved. "Many were not even aware that our church has this ministry."

"Our church is caring, our church has a ministry and our church is doing something," said Dr. Giordano.

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Africa: Don't 'File and Forget' Church's Agenda, World Church President Urges Members
December 7, 2006
Pretoria, South Africa .... [Elizabeth Lechleitner/Rajmund Dabrowski/ANN]
Taken from
http://news.adventist.org/data/2006/11/1165522107/index.html.en
 

The Southern Africa-Indian Ocean (SID) region of the Seventh-day Adventist church will move from Harare, Zimbabwe, to its new headquarters in Pretoria, South Africa, over the next few weeks. The spacious three-story complex, located in one of Pretoria's business parks, will house some 50 personnel. [Photos: Rajmund Dabrowski/ANN]

 
From right, world church president Pastor Jan Paulsen; Mike Seloane, African National Congress Member of the Provincial Legislature; SID president Paul Ratsara; Claude Sabot, an associate secretary for the world church; and Roy Ryan, who coordinated with developers for the headquarters and is an associate treasurer for the world church, join audience members at the inauguration.

 
"We cannot be content with merely asking, 'What can we do?' We have to speak for those who cannot speak for themselves," Pastor Paulsen said during inaugural remarks.

 
Along with world church and regional leaders, Pastor Paulsen participates in the ribbon-cutting ceremony at the new headquarters.

 
"As a global community, we need to be a voice that articulates the issues, a voice that stirs the conscience of the governments and the people in positions to make a difference," said Pastor Jan Paulsen, Seventh-day Adventist world church president. His remarks were part of December 4 inaugural events at the church's new Southern Africa-Indian Ocean (SID) regional headquarters located in Irene, a suburb of South Africa's administrative capitol, Pretoria.

"We cannot be content with merely asking, 'What can we do?' We have to speak for those who cannot speak for themselves," he added.

In his address, Pastor Paulsen outlined what he believes is the world church's two-part agenda. While most Adventists readily acknowledge the church's "obvious" mission--that of "nurturing the spiritual life of the global community"--Paulsen stressed its other aim: meeting the "temporal and immediate" needs of both church and community members.

Cautioning against isolationism, Paulsen said, "The church was established primarily for people who are not members and must not be a community for itself. We have a mission to reach those who are outside. The church must be a compassionate, proactive community, addressing the hopes, aspirations, frustrations, sufferings and longings of everyday life."

In particular, Paulsen highlighted four areas where he expects the church in the Southern Africa-Indian Ocean region and worldwide to contribute more actively and visibly. Those areas are education, HIV and AIDS, violence and abuse against women and children, and civil war and unrest.

"Education in developing countries for parents who look to a better future for their children has enormous value," said Paulsen, commending Adventist education's uniqueness in offering not only sound academics and professional training, but also a perspective that values "moral and ethical integrity."

Adventists must direct considerably more focus, however, to the HIV and AIDS epidemic in Africa, Paulsen observed. Responding to the staggering rate of HIV infection in South Africa, which falls second only to India, Paulsen said, "I suspect sometimes that the global community tires a bit of all this. You hear the same [statistics] so many times that somehow an element of fatigue sets in."

"God forbid," he continued, "that the church should ever tire of exploring ways [to] contribute to alleviating some of the sufferings [brought on by] this pandemic." Paulsen then called on church members to partner with governments and organizations to raise the funds, resources, and awareness necessary to combat HIV and AIDS.

Paulsen added that he expects the church's Southern Africa-Indian Ocean region to "develop a comprehensive, sustained, strong and well-communicated ministry that will train the local churches to be centers of support, hope, love and compassion for people who are suffering."

"The church is doing many good things for the community, but we've not been effective or strong in making [HIV and AIDS awareness] known to the public, or indeed making it known to the government with whom we wish to partner in addressing this issue," Paulsen remarked candidly.

Working together with social and state initiatives was a common thread Paulsen wove throughout his address. The regional headquarters' inauguration fell amid a 16-day national campaign to combat violence against women and children.

"I thank you for the challenge," Paulsen said, "but frankly, 16 days is not enough. The church has to make this issue part of its ongoing initiative in the community. We have, as a church, released a formal statement specifically addressing the reprehensible nature of abuse against women and children. But statements can easily be filed and forgotten if we don't keep articulating the issues and identifying with people in the community."

Violence in the home, Paulsen implied, is often a reflection of aggression on a national scale. "We recognize the difficulty of finding healing after extensive destruction. The church is engaged in healing, but it's a long process," said Paulsen, referring to the Rwandan genocide of 1994.

Paulsen expressed particular concern over the atrocities that continue to plague Africa, most notably in Congo and Darfur.

"We don't say much, and we don't hear much, about the many more whose lives and homes have been destroyed in Congo. And at the moment we have Darfur in Sudan where a quarter of a million people have been killed and 2-3 million people are refugees living in squalor because there is no togetherness of thinking and planning or will and resolve by the international community to implement solutions," he stated.

Referencing a parable recorded in the New Testament book of Matthew, Paulsen stressed that action, not words, ought to be the benchmark of Christianity. "I suffered from HIV and AIDS, and you loved me and accepted me," Paulsen said, adding to a passage where Jesus implies genuine concern for humanity far outweighs doctrinal expertise when it comes to eternal value.

"When the cause of the poor and suffering is no longer visible on the agenda of the church," Paulsen said, "I despair at the church. Christ will hold this church accountable if we are not a compassionate voice for the needs of the poor and do what we can to alleviate their sufferings."

The inauguration of the new headquarters was laced with symbolism representing the region's unity and diversity, including a flag raising ceremony.

As a civic guest at the event, which was attended by some 300 guests from the church in South Africa and the region, Mike Seloane, African National Congress Member of the Provincial Legislature, addressed the inaugural audience. "Christ was not sectarian. He accepted and loved everybody unconditionally," Seloane said.

He pointed out that God's character is marked by unity, love, forgiveness, truth, and humility--qualities the church should strive to embody. Seloane also referred to the church's moral voice in society. That voice, he said, "is playing a leading role in providing services and programs that will deal with ethics and corporate governance. This church is known to adhere to high standards of morality."

Seloane added that "this church has to [m]ake a conscious decision to form partnerships with government and the rest of civil society [while] still reflecting the character of Christ and not compromising the 'truth.' Communities are looking forward to get[ting] restoration and hope from institutions such as churches."

Seloane, whose wife is a Seventh-day Adventist, said the new SID offices "must be offices of hope and peace. This church through this office has to look at Sub-Saharan Africa's problems, like HIV and AIDS, without being judgmental [and] restore homes through showing unconditional love to the infected individuals and families."

"This is a special day for our church on the continent of Africa, and especially its Southern part," said Paul Ratsara, SID president. The opening of SID's new headquarters drew a wide audience of regional church officials, including representatives from 23 of the region's countries and territories. Together with Ratsara, Solomon Maphosa and Jannie Bekker, regional secretary and treasurer, respectively, officiated inaugural celebrations.

Among representatives from world church headquarters were Matthew Bediako, the world church's executive secretary, Robert Lemon, its treasurer, and, Pardon Mwansa, one of the world church's vice presidents and a former leader of the region.

The Pretoria headquarters will replace SID's former offices in Harare, Zimbabwe, and will minister to a regional membership of some 2 million Adventists. The church formally established its work in the southern part of Africa in 1887 in Cape Town, which for decades hosted its regional headquarters.

According to Ratsara, the move from Harare will take place over the next few weeks. The spacious three-story complex, located in one of Pretoria's business parks, will house some 50 personnel. SID headquarters is one of three African regional church centers. Headquarters for Eastern Africa are located in Nairobi, Kenya; Abidjan, Ivory Coast hosts Western African regional offices.

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Africa: Be Participants, Not Spectators, World Church Leader Says to Young People
December 5, 2006
Cape Town, South Africa .... [Elizabeth
Lechleitner/ANN]
World Church president Pastor Jan Paulsen answers a young person's questions during Sunday's broadcast of Let's Talk South Africa. [Photos: Rajmund Dabrowski/ANN]

 
Some 50 young people from across the church's Southern Africa-Indian Ocean region met with Paulsen for the hour-long unscripted conversation.

 
Andre Brink, communication director for the church's Southern Africa-Indian Ocean region, directed Let's Talk South Africa, the 14th in the Let's Talk series.

 

Let's Talk South Africa
, the 14th in a series of unscripted, unedited conversations broadcast live between Seventh-day Adventist Church world president, Pastor Jan Paulsen, and a group of young people, might well be dubbed 'Let's Get Involved.'

Continuing his commitment to "feel the pulse of the youth and young professionals of our church," Pastor Paulsen on Sunday, December 3, met in Cape Town, South Africa, with 50 Adventist young people representing 11 countries across the church's Southern Africa-Indian Ocean region.

Throughout Let's Talk South Africa, Pastor Paulsen reiterated that young people themselves are often the answer to their questions. Specifically regarding young people who have left the church, he said, "Why don't you reach out and try to talk to them? Tell them 'we miss you,' and that life is richer in the church. That is an initiative that I want to place on the shoulders of you who are young. Please minister to your own peers and your own colleagues. Encourage young people to hear each other out, because they are more likely to listen to each other. And then we as leaders have to reexamine what we do to support you in that ministry."

During the broadcast, several young people posed questions with a common premise: why world church administration is not more visibly involved in local congregations. Continuing his 'ask not what your church can do for you, but what you can do for your church' theme, Pastor Paulsen responded to a question regarding church unity with the following: "I think young people, particularly here in South Africa, because you live in such a diverse society ... are better placed than many who are older than you. So I see you have a ministry."

"I think it's very important that our churches at the local level should truly become integrated churches where you share in worship and share in leadership, and where you affirm each others' genuineness in Christ and you are blessed by the richness which we may experience in that diversity."

In answering several questions, Pastor Paulsen took the opportunity to remind young people to safeguard their personal relationships with Christ. "Don't be passive, but active in the life of the church. And be serious about looking after your spiritual life. Nobody else is going to do it if you don't; you have the primary responsibility."

Throughout the hour-long Let's Talk South Africa, audience members repeatedly questioned the church's efforts to combat HIV and AIDS. In response, Pastor Paulsen readily admitted more work could be done, but that local churches and individual members hold as much responsibility as church administration to that end. "The church must be a place of hope. It must be something people can turn to and find that the value God has placed in every human being is recognized by the church."

When some young people implied that the world church is not doing enough to regulate the behavior of church members, Pastor Paulsen made it clear that world church administration is not a micromanaging body. "You don't deal with people that way. You can minister to people, you can love people, and you can tell them about Christ and the gospel and demonstrate the richness of the Christian life to them and make an appeal to them. But at the end of the day, it's going to be [their] personal choice," he said.

Encouraging young people to make that choice is one of Pastor Paulsen's greatest hopes for the Let's Talk series. He says young Adventists are the church's future and its most important asset. "I don't believe you can build [that future] without Jesus Christ," he said during the broadcast. Paulsen urged the audience members to fully integrate themselves in the activities and initiatives of the church. "Participate in every aspect," he said, and "allow your talents, energy and creative initiative to ... flow into the life of the church."

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South Africa: Adventist World President Calls For an 'Accepting Church,' Lights Candle to Commemorate World AIDS Day

December 1, 2006 Port Elizabeth, South Africa .... [Rajmund Dabrowski/ANN]

Hundreds of Seventh-day Adventists greeted world church president Pastor Jan Paulsen upon his arrival in Port Elizabeth, South Africa. [Photos: Rajmund Dabrowski/ANN]

 
On the airport tarmac, Pastor Paulsen is greeted by a group of South African children and church leaders. Pastor L. M. Mbaza (center), president of the local Cape Conference, looks on.

 
Accompanied by world church secretary Pastor Matthew Bediako, Southern Africa-Indian Ocean regional president Pastor Paul Ratsara and other church leaders, Paulsen lights a symbolic candle to commemorate World AIDS Day.

 
On a day the world community recognized the challenge of HIV and AIDS, Pastor Jan Paulsen, world president of the Seventh-day Adventist Church reaffirmed the Adventist commitment "to an be active, and not a silent partner" in addressing what has become a curse for mankind.

As he arrived in Port Elizabeth, Pastor Paulsen was met by hundreds of Adventist believers and recognized World AIDS Day by lighting a symbolic candle.

Speaking at the airport, Pastor Paulsen said that HIV and AIDS "is a responsibility and challenge to find solutions, not only to South Africa, but for all humanity."

"We need to seek and find solutions in the scientific and medical area, in prevention, in training and in acceptance, within our communities, of those who are suffering."

"Our church is an active and not a silent partner in addressing the challenges of HIV and AIDS," Pastor Paulsen said. "We do what should be done in any community to prevent the spread of this curse. We do it also in training churches to be accepting of those who are suffering."

He said that "a church is where people come to be accepted, to be loved, and to have their human dignity recognized. We also come to church to find ... the future. The church must love them. The church must be supportive, positive, loving and accepting." He sees the church as an "active partner of this important ministry on Christ's behalf."

This is Pastor Paulsen's second visit to Port Elizabeth. In 1991, as chairman of a Commission on South Africa set up by the church's General Conference, he participated in a consultation with church members about merging two unions, restructuring them into one administrative unit for the country.

"We did that," Pastor Paulsen stated. "At that time it was a big step forward and it was a signal. But there are still more things to be done. We have still some distance to go and we have not completed the task as a church."

In a statement to the media, the world church president said, "the path toward unity in South Africa has not been easy. But it is a course that has been undertaken with courage and determination--with an undaunted belief in a better future for the children of your country. On behalf of the worldwide Seventh-day Adventist Church, I want to express my admiration and support for those, both within the government and the private sector, who are leaders in this cause."

"As we look around the world today we clearly see how hate and intolerance lead to violence and destruction. As a church, we believe that it is only by recognizing the dignity and worth of every human being that we can hope to build more peaceful communities," Pastor Paulsen added. He also stated "the Adventist Church is committed to working for peace and reconciliation by promoting tolerance and respect for fundamental human rights. I pray that the Adventist Church in South Africa will be a partner in this, that it will do all it can to foster harmony and understanding, and that it will be an instrument of reconciliation and healing within society."

Pastor Paulsen recalled that his first visit to South Africa was just after Nelson Mandela was freed from his imprisonment and a few years later became the country's president. Paulsen recognized Mandela as "an outstanding leader and symbol for integrity and morality in leadership not only for South Africa, but also for the world," and commended South Africa for the steps taken forward in the last 15 years by Nelson Mandela and his successor, President Thabo Mbeki. Paulsen commended the developments in South Africa where today its citizens "experience self-realization and honor equality of humanity."

He also referred to steps taken in South Africa toward eradication of violence. He commended the nation for "marking the importance of eradicating violence on the streets in the city, but also violence in the homes, as well as violence against women and the children. This we must never be tired of. Children and women are vulnerable in society, not only in South Africa, but also around the world. They need our special care and protection."

"I want to commend the state for the initiatives profiling these needs. I want to state this to the representatives of the public, and to our church members--we are talking about [issues] that are core values to the Seventh-day Adventist Church, and we will do our best in expressing support for these matters, and combating these ills of mankind," Pastor Paulsen concluded.

The South Africa itinerary for Pastor Paulsen includes participating in a spiritual convocation in Port Elizabeth on Sabbath, Dec. 2, and, in Pretoria on Dec. 4, opening the newly built headquarters for the Southern Africa-Indian Ocean Division, one of the world church's 13 geographical regions. On Sunday, Dec. 3, he will have the opportunity to participate in a "Let's Talk" conversation with a group of young church members from across Southern Africa, which will be broadcast live by satellite throughout Africa and Europe.

On his visit to South Africa Pastor Paulsen was hosted by Pastor L. M. Mbaza, president of the local Cape Conference. He was also accompanied by world church secretary, Pastor Matthew Bediako, Southern Africa-Indian Ocean regional president, Pastor Paul Ratsara and Francois Louw, president of the Southern Africa Union.

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Huambo: Over 100 Adventist Church Members Get HIV/AIDS Training - 20 November 2006
Taken from Angola Press at
http://www.angolapress-angop.ao/noticia-e.asp?ID=487563 Also published in All Africa newsletter at http://allafrica.com/stories/200611131259.html

Huambo, 11/13 - Some 125 Adventist Churches believers selected from Angola`s 18 provinces are attending as from Monday a seminar for trainers against Hiv/Aids within the communities in central Huambo province.

The five-day event, promoted by the International Adventist Ministry on Hiv/Aids (AAIM), aims at backing Angolan government`s efforts to reduce the disease in the country.

The meeting, being run by specialists from Washington (USA) and the Philippines, is analysing the prevalence and damage caused by Hiv/Aids, ways of transmission and prevention, the combat of stigma and strategies to assist Hiv/Aids affected and infected persons, mainly orphans, widows and youths.

After the meeting, AAIM will outline a plan of action to run similar training programmes in several other localities of Angola, under the Adventist Church.

On the occasion, Adventist Church Health director for Southern Africa and Indian Ocean division, Aléxis LLaguno, spoke out for the need for hard work in Angola, including fight against the disease.

Angola`s statistics show the country has a low prevalence of infections, estimated at 5 percent. The source said that more and more effort is needed, is as the pandemics can seriously affect the country, should the current five percent jump to 20.

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Africa: Adventist Ministry Mends Lives, Empowers Women
November 28, 2006
Maseru, Lesotho .... [Elizabeth Lechleitner/ANN]
Taken from also
http://news.adventist.org/data/2006/10/1164745281/index.html.en
available from

http://www.puconline.org/index.php?option=com_na_newsdescription&task=show&groupId=14515_1&newsid=16609

Along with other AIDS-stricken women in Lesotho, Maseeng joined a sewing seminar run by the Adventist AIDS International Ministry (AAIM), where she found support and regained self-sufficiency. [Photos: Hans Olson/Adventist Mission/ANN]

 
Young women in AAIM's sewing seminar display their work.

 
AAIM directors Oscar and Eugenia Giordano, both medical doctors, are committed to stamping out not only the physical symptoms of HIV, but also the prejudiced attitudes many in both secular and religious communities project toward those infected.

 

Despite sweeping efforts by both government and private organizations to step up AIDS education, prevention and treatment around the globe, many AIDS' sufferers continue to combat not only the disease's ravages, but also the scorn and alienation of neighbors, friends, and even family.

Ostracized by her community, weakened, and severely depressed, Maseeng, a Lesothoan elementary school teacher, led a life unraveled by AIDS. But then she joined a sewing seminar run by the Seventh-day Adventist AIDS International Ministry (AAIM).

Headquartered in Johannesburg, South Africa, AAIM was organized three years ago to combat AIDS, which claims the lives of 12 Adventist church members daily. Since then, AAIM has reached 14 African countries, says Eugenia Giordano, the ministry's associate director. The sewing seminar Maseeng joined is one of AAIM's many income-generating seminars created to help those infected with HIV regain self-sufficiency.

AAIM particularly focuses on caring for AIDS orphans and women, who--according to recent World Health Organization (WHO) statistics--are biologically, socially and economically more susceptible to HIV infection than men. In sub-Saharan Africa, WHO reports indicate, young women are 6 times more likely to contract the HIV virus than men.

At the sewing seminar, Giordano reports Maseeng's healing process began with smiles and supportive friendship. "Maseeng [found] people [who] were loving and caring. [She] was not alone anymore. She had a new group of friends--people [who] were in the same situation that she was in. People [who] understood her, [who] did not judge her, and [who] cared for her."

But Maseeng is only one out of the estimated 40 million people suffering from AIDS around the world. And a November United Nations report states "the [AIDS] epidemic is growing in all areas of the world, with worrisome signs of resurgence in some countries that were trumpeted as successes in combating the disease, like Uganda and Thailand." Battling AIDS worldwide remains one of the UN's most challenging Millennium Development Goals.

"We are aware that in the midst of this epidemic any effort is never enough and much more needs to be done," admits Giordano. But statistics discourage neither her nor her husband, Oscar, AAIM's director. Both are medical doctors committed to stamping out not only the physical symptoms of HIV, but also the prejudiced attitudes many in both secular and religious communities project toward those infected. [See the June 6, 2006 ANN story: Africa: Adventists Call for End to Discrimination Against People with HIV/AIDS.

"The biggest challenge our church faces is silence about HIV and AIDS [and the] stigmatization, rejection, and isolation of people living with [the disease]," says Giordano. "But [AAIM] is promoting hope, love and compassion to people living with HIV." Giordano says AAIM--with its grassroots organization focused on the concerted efforts of local individuals, communities and congregations--takes its cue from Jesus' healing ministry on earth.

This December, Giordano and Oscar will commemorate World AIDS Day during a ceremony held in Soweto, South Africa.

The Adventist Development and Relief Agency (ADRA) International, a humanitarian agency long involved in AIDS prevention and treatment, will also observe World AIDS Day. In addition to continuing its ambitious programs for those infected with the disease around the world, ADRA will distribute red AIDS awareness ribbons and provide informational packages--themed 'What Can You Do?'--to educate church members about the epidemic.

In Soweto, the Giordanos will celebrate triumphs such as Maseeng's, but along with ADRA, they'll also urge local churches, pastors, and lay people to organize more church-based HIV and AIDS support groups to "sensitize and mobilize the membership," says Giordano. She hopes a compassionate spirit coupled with education will empower people to mitigate the scourge.

Beyond that, Giordano believes solidarity is essential. "The UN theme for 2006 is 'Stop AIDS. Keep the Promise,' remind[ing] all of us of the need [to] work together to fight this epidemic."

Maseeng has taken that reminder to heart. Today, in addition to running a day care and resuming her teaching job, she spearheads her own network for women with HIV and AIDS in the surrounding community, providing both encouragement and financial wherewithal. "They come together to sew, and to support each other with love and friendship," says Giordano.

The women also meet at Maseeng's home each Sabbath for worship services. "[Maseeng] is doing wonderfully," reports Giordano. "She is full of life and she is praising the Lord for everything that He has done for her."

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Association of Adventist Women (AAW)

October 14, 2006 - AAW Recognised Women that Contributed to Humanitarian Work.

Eugenia Lopez-Sustache Giordano was born in Buenos Aires, Argentina, and even as a child expressed the desire to be a teacher and a physician. Her family moved to the United States in the 1960s, but she later returned to Argentina, where she married Oscar, her childhood sweetheart. They completed medical school together in 1978 at the National University of La Plata. Eugenia and Oscar, a surgeon, have four daughters.

In 1983, they decided to move to the United States, where the entire family gave their lives to Christ and joined the Seventh-day Adventist Church. Eugenia and Oscar wanted to serve God in a mission fi eld and, in 1990, they received their first call to the 104-bed Mugonero Adventist Hospital in Rwanda. Dr. Eugenia cared for inpatients and some 60 outpatients a day. During the tribal war, Dr. Oscar spent much time in Kigali, which left Dr. Eugenia to run the hospital. It was a most stressful time and, in 1994, they were forced to leave. They saw 948 baptisms during their time there.

In 1995, the family moved to the island of Madagascar, where they served for eight years in the Health Ministries for the Indian Ocean Union Mission. Dr. Eugenia served as Medical Director of the Antananarivo Adventist Medical Clinic, in addition to helping Oscar direct the Indian Ocean Union Mission Adventist Medical System, which grew to 21 operational institutions serving 106,000 patients a year.

During their time in Madagascar, HIV/AIDS was becoming an epidemic of crisis proportions in Africa. Yet the problem was not being addressed openly, either inside or outside the church. "Instead, in most Adventist churches there is still silence and denial about HIV/AIDS. Fearing stigmatization and discrimination, church members do not dare to disclose their status publicly. The majority of our church members living with HIV and AIDS suffer and die secretly," according to Dr. Oscar.

In 2002, the General Conference appointed them to establish the Adventist HIV-AIDS International Ministry Africa Office (AAIM), which opened at the beginning of 2004 in Johannesburg, South Africa. It serves all three African SDA Divisions with some 16,000 churches and 4.5 million church members across the continent. Unfortunately, the General Conference was able to offer only a meager budget. Even with limited funds, the Doctors Giordano are highly effective in their ministry and achieve extraordinary results.

The Giordanos established several pilot programs in countries all over Africa before initiating a fi ve-phase action plan: 1) the sensitization of church leadership; 2) training of pastors and elders; 3) speaking openly about the issue, breaking the denial and silence; and including HIV/AIDS segments in all church activities; 4) appointing and training of support group leaders; and 5) mobilizing church members to assist and care for the infected and affected.

Dr. Eugenia’s work focuses on women and children. In the last four years, she has developed projects to empower HIV-positive women and women at risk to be fi nancially selfsustainable. She has seen hundreds of lives transformed. Women who had given up on life have found hope and self-esteem, widows have mastered skills to sustain themselves and their children, and orphans are being fed regularly.

Dr. Eugenia said, "Having served in the mission field for the last 16 years, I found that every day is a new adventure with the Lord, where the only way to survive is to have a constant connection with God. Making Jesus Christ a partner in everything I do is my recipe for success. When I see how our work touches so many lives, I feel great joy, and I know that I am here today not because of my own merits, but because God works through me."

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August 29, 2006 Silver Spring, Maryland, United States .... [Compiled by ANN Staff]

Taken from http://news.adventist.org/data/2006/07/1156877622/index.html.en

Adventists were among the more than 20,000 people who recently attended a major conference on AIDS in Canada. [Photos: Oscar Giordano/ANN]

 
Canada: Adventist Physicians Attend International Aids Conference ... Leaders of the Seventh-day Adventist church's response to AIDS in Africa attended the largest ever meeting on HIV/AIDS which finished in Toronto last Friday August 18. More than 20,000 people attended the conference sharing the main theme of AIDS 2006 - "Time to deliver" AIDS 2006 represents the most diverse gathering of people seeking to bring solutions to one of the major public health problems that the world is facing today, which is the HIV/AIDS pandemic. AAIM -Adventist, AIDS International Ministry was present at the meetings. Dr. Oscar Giordano, director of the Adventist Aids International Ministry said of his participation: "It was very important to have the Adventist Church represented in the meetings because of the increasing role that the churches are playing in containing the epidemic and relieving its impact." He added that there was a special exhibit section dedicated to interfaith activities.

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Africa: Adventists Call for End to Discrimination Against People with HIV, AIDS
June 6, 2006
Johannesburg, South Africa .... [AAIM/ANN Staff]
Taken from
http://news.adventist.org/data/2006/05/1149623740/index.html.en

 
The new face of HIV. Believing that HIV and AIDS were diseases associated with poor lifestyle choices many including Christians excluded those with the diseases in the early years. [Photo courtesy of AAIM]

 
On June 5, 1981--25 years ago this week--the world became aware of a new disease, AIDS. Since then 25 million people around the world have died from the disease and today there are 40 million men, women and children living with HIV. Along with the growth of the disease, particularly in the early years, prejudice against those living with HIV or AIDS grew.

Attempting to combat prejudice in the Seventh-day Adventist Church, Adventist AIDS International Ministry (AAIM), is proposing a set of guidelines on HIV and AIDS for the Adventist church in Africa. At a meeting in April, the AAIM committee made up of church leaders in Africa approved a first draft of the document.

As they travel throughout Africa--where the HIV and AIDS pandemic is exploding--Oscar and Eugenia Giordano see HIV and AIDS victims almost everyday. Both medical doctors, the husband and wife team run the Adventist AAIM. The ministry finds ways for Seventh-day Adventist churches to play an important part in the healing process of people living with HIV or AIDS. After initial resistance the Giordanos have witnessed several Adventist churches in Africa opening their doors to provide emotional support as well as practical support for those with HIV or AIDS. [See the Oct. 10, 2005 ANN story: Africa: What Would Jesus Do for HIV/AIDS Patients?]

Even with such progress the Giordanos say some churches and their members have not been understanding to those, often church members, with the disease.

For those questioning the necessity of the document Oscar Giordano said: "While the church talks about love and acceptance, the unfortunate reality is that this is not what many experience. Some Christians believe that [HIV and AIDS] is God's vengeance for immorality and that those infected are thus not worthy of our love and acceptance." He added that in religious communities HIV/AIDS prejudice is often worse than in the general community.

He referred to a letter a church member wrote to Adventist leaders in the Southern Africa-Indian Ocean region asking what should we "do to members who are infected with HIV?"

The Giordanos said they were struck by the way the question was phrased. "What should we do to members who are infected by HIV?" Oscar repeated. "One would have hoped that the question would read, 'What can we do for people infected?'"

In an Adventist-produced documentary on HIV and AIDS in South Africa, Paul Mawela, a retired pastor in the region who works with HIV and AIDS patients said: "One of my own church members approached me and told me, 'Pastor, I am HIV positive. Am I still welcome to be a member in this church?' That gave me a challenge. And I discovered she was not the only one who thinks that to be HIV positive is to be like a leper--you must be thrown out. There are many in these communities [who feel that way]."

According to the Joint United Nations Programme (UNAIDS), "People living with the virus are frequently subject to discrimination and human rights abuses: many have been thrown out of jobs and homes, rejected by family and friends, and some have even been killed. Together, stigma and discrimination constitute one of the greatest barriers to dealing effectively with the epidemic."

Jan Paulsen, Adventist world church president referred to the issue in his 2005 year-end address. "Whether [people] are poor, carry the HIV virus, or whatever, they are loved by our Lord," he said. "It is our duty to express that love, and to give them dignity and value as human beings. That is also our mission."

Oscar explained that the document, one of love and acceptance, will attempt to reduce the stigma associated with HIV and AIDS. The document outlines how Adventists should "treat those infected with [HIV or AIDS], whether they are church employees, students at our educational institutions, patients at our medical institutions and how we relate to our fellow church members," Oscar concluded.

The second draft of the document will be shared at the next meeting of the AAIM board in October. The Giordanos say they are working to make this a formal policy not only for the church in Africa but for the worldwide Adventist church.

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VOLUNTARY COUNSELING & TESTING CENTER IN SWAZILAND - April 17 2006

" What can we do for Swaziland" asked Professor Eric Anderson of the Loma Linda School of Public Health, during their brief visit in March, 2005 with his students. "Well, if you want to do something, a VCT Center could be an ideal project" replied Dr. Giordano, the Director of the Global AIDS Ministry. "You have to consider the fact that the prevalence now is 46% from ages 15-35 years old." "You can build the VCT right here in our Eye Clinic premises, " added Dr. Negre, the Director of Swazi Eye Services.

"OK, we will do some fundraising, and we'll get it done," Prof Anderson assured us. The fund raising went lightning speed with the Loma Linda Public Health Students. During the General Conference Session in St. Loius, they had already raised money for the VCT. They engaged with all sorts of fund raising activity to reach the needed amount. After the GC Session, we passed by the Loma Linda, and had the opportunity to witness their fund raising night. After the VCT building plan was approved by  Manzini City Council, we finally had the ground breaking ceremony on the 19th January, 2006. The short ceremony was attended by the Media and Television crew. We had representative from the Church Forum for HIV/AIDS as well as from Manzini City Council. Almost all the Pastors from the Swaziland Conference were present. Thirty two individuals from the Loma Linda School of Public Health, have already booked their flight, to attend the grand openning of the Voluntary Counselling and Testing (VCT) Center on March 19, 2006.

Presently, Swaziland has the highest prevalence of HIV/AIDS in the world. The future is bleak  because the rate of new infection continues to climb. In January, 2006,  the HIV/AIDS Surveilance Report of the Ministry of Health puts the latest statistics to 56.2% for ages 20-29 years old.  

Contributed by:

Jun & Cherry Negre

Article prepared for Echo Magazine - SID official publication.

Swaziland ACCS – Adventist Center for Care and Support – (News release by Cherry Negre)
----- Original Message -----
From: Cherjun
To: Anderson, Eric (LLU) ; Llaguno, Alex ; Giordano, Oscar ; Eaton, John ; van der Ness
Sent: Friday, January 27, 2006 11:52 AM
Subject: Ground breaking ceremony

Hello Everybody,

Attached is a photo taken on Jan 19, during the ground breaking ceremony for the establishment of Voluntary Counselling and Testing (VCT) Center. It was attended by Pastors from the Swaziland Conference, a representative from the Church Forum on AIDS, Manzini City Council, Television Channel Swaziland.

The ground breaking was featured on the evening news of 19 Jan.

Please pray for its success. Thanks.

Regards,

Cherry

In Swaziland a VCT – Voluntary Counseling and Testing Center (Adventist Center for Care and Support for people living with HIV was officially opened on March 19,  2006. LLU-SPH, together with AAIM and other donors, gave a substantial contribution towards the construction of the center. Government and church authorities were present at the opening.

A representative from the Church Forum on AIDS said that “the Swazi people have education and awareness on HIV and AIDS, but they can not use this knowledge to change behavior. VCTs are the most effective means to change behavior”
The ACCS is currently being organized, and we hope it will be operational very soon.

VCT - Ground breaking
Ceremony - Jan 19, 2006
Professor Eric Anderson’s
key-note address

Invitees to the
Ceremony

VCT - Ribbon-cutting
Ceremony

AAIM News Release - March 19, 2006
Loma Linda University School of Public Health (LLU-SPH) supports AAIM’s Projects in Lesotho and Swaziland

As a result of this collaboration, in April 2005, Income Generating Activities were established in Hlotse Church – Lesotho. LLU-SPH donated sewing machines and clothing to help people living with HIV. It was the beginning of an expanded project that today has 7 sewing workshops in that country.


A Group of Students from LLU-SPH - March 2005


Cothing Parcels



Lesotho 1st Sewing workshop

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Mozambique: Class Designed to Reverse Behavior Leading to HIV/AIDS
February 27, 2006
Maputo, Mozambique .... [Taashi Rowe/ANN]
Taken from
http://news.adventist.org/data/2006/01/1141068816/index.html.en

 
Nora de Leon (front row left) and seven of the young people who taught the HIV course.

 
Herica Candido said the most important part of the program for her re-inforced a positive self-image.

 
Did you know that a positive self-image can stop a killer in its tracks? This message is an integral part of a six-month class on HIV/AIDS that 141 young people in Maputo, Mozambique took last year. Ranging in age from 10 to 18-years-old, participants took the class as members of the Pathfinders -- a worldwide organization of young people sponsored by the Seventh-day Adventist Church.

The Southeastern African country of Mozambique has one of the highest HIV prevalence rates in the world, with the majority of new infections occurring among those under 29 years, according to the World Health Organization. A 2003 United Nations HIV surveillance report estimates 1.4 million Mozambicans of all ages were living with HIV/AIDS.

With that information in mind, Nora de Leon, RN and a master's degree student at the Loma Linda University School of Public Health in the United States, developed a Christ-centered curriculum to teach Pathfinders about the dangers of AIDS and how the disease can be prevented.

"I've always enjoyed working with youth," says de Leon. "I've had contact with youth in various scenarios which have broadened my understanding of how difficult it is for young people growing up in our current environment. After coming with my husband to Africa, I realized that I couldn't live here and not give something back both to my church and the youth."

The curriculum combined basic information on the human reproductive system and reproductive health issues, such as HIV/AIDS, with information designed to change behavior.

"A key part of the curriculum were workshops designed to assist in reinforcing the participant's self-esteem, assisting in their negotiating and decision-making skills, strengthening their understanding of their personal value system, assertiveness, and creating a personal vision of their own future," said de Leon. "The basis of this module was founded on sexual abstinence and delaying their initiation into sexual relationships."

The program, which ran from April to November of 2005, relied on the willingness of Pathfinder leaders in the city of Maputo to be trained and then pass on the information and training to other Pathfinders. The program was credited by some teens with changing their worldview.

Pathfinder leaders reported that young people in the church participating in premarital sex diminished from 97.2 to 26.2 percent.

De Leon says the program's success came from a total buy-in from the Pathfinder leaders. They had to completely believe in all the principles of the program themselves in order for young people to believe in the information they were getting.

It was also openly supported by the Ministry of Health in Mozambique, which sent a representative to observe several sessions. They also publicly recognized the Seventh-day Adventist Church as the first religious organization in the country to openly confront the issue of AIDS among its members.

The program was supported by Adventist leaders in Mozambique, the local Adventist Development and Relief Agency (ADRA) and Pathfinder International, an international non-governmental organization not related to the Adventist Church.

De Leon says there is great interest from the church community and from the project staff to expand this project nationally, but "we have thus far been unable to obtain the necessary funds to make this a reality."

"This program came at the right moment to help our troubled youth that are confronting several problems, especially about sexuality," said Herica Candido, a 19-year-old high school student who taught the course to fellow Pathfinders. Candido said talking about "changing behavior in adolescents, learning to make decisions by themselves, and being responsible for the consequences was an important part of this program. Many of them opted easily for the sexual abstinence before marriage."

De Leon said the program was brutally honest -- even shocking -- about the kind of destruction and pain that sexually transmitted diseases can cause. "This created a basis for the youth to begin analyzing their own realities and personal situation," she said.

"I think that what makes this different than some other curriculums is that youth are strengthened by being able to make their own choices for their future, and not rely on just what they are being told, but rather understand the consequences of their decisions and apply and stand up for what they believe through their values and actions," de Leon concluded.

Linda de Leon contributed to this report.

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Helping HIV/AIDS Victims; Church Programs Expand to Rwanda
January 17, 2006
Kibuye, Rwanda .... [Fesaha Tsegaye/ANN Staff]
Taken from http://news.adventist.org/data/2006/00/1137529927/index.html.en
 
Many Adventist Churches in Africa are buying and raising livestock like chickens and goats to help support those living with HIV/AIDS.

 
HIV/AIDS is on the rise and there is a community of people that now, more than ever, need to be told about God's love. An estimated 40 million people worldwide are living with the disease, according to the United Nations.

The Seventh-day Adventist Church has long opened its hospitals to serving those infected with the HIV/AIDS virus, but more recently the denomination has also opened its church doors. The church is committed to uniting words of hope with hope in action.

A Jan. 11 meeting in Kibuye, Rwanda paved the way for Adventist churches in that country to find ways to support those with HIV/AIDS. The meeting brought together a group of more than 120 that included pastors, teachers and other church leaders from as far away as the United States.

This builds on work already established by the Adventist Aids International Ministry (AAIM) office in Johannesburg, South Africa, a ministry that teaches churches how to reach out to those suffering from HIV/AIDS in their communities.

Spearheaded by Drs. Oscar and Eugenia Giordano, AAIM helps Adventist churches in countries such as Cameroon, Ethiopia, Ghana, Kenya, Lesotho, Madagascar, Uganda, Rwanda, and Swaziland to be organized so that "Every Church can become a Community Health Center."

The Rwanda meeting discusssed a initiating a goat project, said Dr. Alan Handysides, director for the Adventist world church's Health Ministries department.

"To a Western mind, a goat project may seem like a wacky idea, but for an African, a goat gives income and can provide a healthy diet, which is crucial when living with the disease," Dr. Handysides told ANN in a phone interview.

The concept of every church becoming a "cell" that will support those affected by HIV/AIDS makes use of its nearly 4 million Adventists on the continent who worship in approximately 20,000 congregations.

Already some churches across Africa are running church-facilitated industry and subsistence activities that range from providing sewing machines and bakeries, to goat breeding as means of supporting the sick.

The Central Adventist Church in Nairobi, Kenya is a classic example of a church becoming a support center for those with HIV/AIDS, Dr. Handysides said. He explained that this church has converted many of its Bible study rooms for HIV/AIDS care and use them for testing, counseling support, nutrition, clothing assistance, work rooms and activity centers.

The push to encourage churches to help those with HIV/AIDS fits into "Tell The World," the world church's vision to share the gospel through a variety of means, including community outreach, media outreach, and encouraging church members to spend more time reading the Bible and praying. One of the goals of "Tell The World" is to increase church members involvement in community service.

"The essence of 'Tell The World' is not just the spoken word," said Dr. Handysides. "We can be Christians by actions, not just words. It all fits in beautifully with 'Tell The World.' By reaching out to our communities, we tell them we care for them, we are interested in their health, that they are valuable and we want to be their friend."

East Central Africa, where Rwanda is located, is home to more than 7 million infected with HIV/AIDS. It also sees 6,000 deaths per day. There are between 2 and 3 million children infected by the virus, many of whom are orphaned, hungry and in need of life's basic necessities. Every hour 468 adults and 70 children globally contract the virus.

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Malawi: Kids Say 'No' to HIV/AIDS Through TV Show
January 13, 2006
Blantyre, Malawi .... [Taashi Rowe/ANN]

Taken from http://news.adventist.org/data/2006/00/1137163340/index.html.en

The "monster" is big, gray, and boxy with huge, sharp, white teeth, and is intent on swallowing its victims whole. Parents may have heard this description before when their children talk about that "monster" in the closet or under the bed. This time, however, the monster does not only reside in the imaginations of children. The monster is very real and, while it is not as huge and as ominous-looking in real life, its effects are. The monster is in fact a miniscule virus that killed millions across Sub-Saharan Africa and other areas of the world.

HIV/AIDS is this monster depicted as larger than life on the television screens in the Southern African nation of Malawi. Just like Sesame Street, a popular educational television show for children in the United States, taught children difficult concepts through puppets and songs, so does the television program Pro-Active Kids. The program, which is sponsored by the Seventh-day Adventist Church in Malawi, focuses on teaching kids about HIV/AIDS.

When is the right age to start teaching children about the serious and complex topic of HIV/AIDS? As soon as possible if one takes a cue from the Pro-Active Kids who range from ages five to 12. In Malawi alone there are an estimated 100,000 children living with HIV/AIDS, according to UNAIDS -- the Joint United Nations Program on HIV/AIDS.

Before budgetary constraints discontinued taping of new shows, 13 episodes were produced, according to Dr. Saustin Mfune, president of the Adventist Church in Malawi, who came up with the idea for the show. The show was done for Television Malawi and was aired every Thursday evening from October 2004 to February 2005.

"All the series were on various aspects of HIV," said Mfune. "I [wrote] all the scripts and all the music." Mfune came up with the program idea while he was director of Youth and Children's Ministries for the church's Southern-Africa Indian Ocean regional office.

Though the program is no longer on national television, the Pro-Active Kids take the show on the road to a variety of schools and churches. In addition to talking about HIV/AIDS in their live performances, the kids also talk about other topics such as keeping the environment clean, the importance of breakfast and self-esteem.

Over the years Mfune has also brought different groups of children from Pro-Active Kids clubs in Kenya and Malawi to various Adventist world church events.

"I did develop Pro-Active Kids clubs ... to build in children Christian self-esteem and teach moral education. It has and it still works very well," says Mfune.

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WWJD - What Would Jesus Do for HIV/AIDS Patients?

October 10, 2005 Silver Spring, Maryland, United States .... [Taashi Rowe/ANN]
Taken from
http://news.adventist.org/data/2005/09/1128950532/index.html.en

Just some of the children in Lesotho whose parents died from AIDS. These are fortunate to receive one meal a day. [Photos: Global Mission/ANN]

 
These women met at an HIV/AIDs support group in Lesotho. They have committed to feeding 36 HIV/AIDS orphans.

 
Sewing workshops teach women in Lesotho a skill that allows them to earn an income.

 

 

 
Drs. Oscar and Eugenia Giordano.

 
For Mammosa, a 26-year-old widow and mother of three, the most supportive treatment for the HIV virus she carries does not come in the form of a pill. Love and compassion is the essential ingredient in any form of treatment, say Drs. Oscar and Eugenia Giordano, director and associate director of Adventist AIDS International Ministries (AAIM) in Johannesburg, South Africa. AAIM is an organization with a ministry that helps answer the question, "What would Jesus do?"

There are an estimated 25 million adults and children in Africa living with HIV/AIDS, according to the 2004 Report on the Global AIDS Epidemic from The Joint United Nations Program on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS).

Governments worldwide say the relentless spread of HIV/AIDS around the globe is one of the world's most pressing issues. Halting the spread of the disease is one of eight goals that U.N. states have agreed to do by 2015. The eight goals, called the Millennium Development Goals, came out of a U.N world meeting in September 2000 that identified and outlined resolutions to alleviate the world's most dire problems. The Giordanos are among those in the Seventh-day Adventist Church who are responding to the urgent call to be involved and change the situation.

The World Health Organization (WHO) explains that HIV/AIDS is more than just a medical problem: infection often results in loss of employment, income, housing, health and mobility.

This is "because of the stigma attached to those with HIV/AIDS, especially in Africa," says Dr. Oscar Giordano in a recent interview with Adventist News Network. "Most suffering from the disease are left alone at home, weak, without the strength to walk to fetch water or to find food."

So what would Jesus do? Dr. Oscar Giordano compares those suffering from HIV/AIDS today to those suffering from leprosy in Jesus' day. "Jesus would approach these people, He would touch them, give them His tangible presence, which means a lot for a person who is completely alone. That touch of love will last a long time ... care and compassion starts the healing process," he explains.

AAIM was started in 2003 to help Seventh-day Adventists in Africa deal with the scourge of HIV/AIDS, which claims the lives of 12 church members on a daily basis. Today AAIM, with a staff of two, is starting to put down roots in local communities with programs that transcend national and human barriers.

The couple have served as medical missionaries for 15 years in Rwanda, Burundi, Zaire and Madagascar. With a mandate to reach as many people as possible on the entire continent of Africa, the Giordanos, through AAIM, orchestrate dozens of projects that advocate restoring the spirit and giving hope.

The Giordanos have chosen to attack this "silent invader," not just from a medical standpoint but, first, through love and compassion, and then education, fostering social networks, and helping to generate income.

They believe that everyone in the Adventist Church can improve the lives of those living with the disease. The main approach is to demolish fear and erroneous perceptions. This is particularly important for the Adventist Church, Giordano says. He explains that fear of what other church members will think causes countless HIV/AIDS patient to withdraw from society and die even faster from isolation.

"Many think that if they conduct themselves properly that they won't get [HIV/AIDS]," says Dr. Oscar Giordano. "But [for many women] it is a silent invader like a terrorist. We don't know where it is hiding but suddenly it is there."

More than half of all HIV/AIDS cases are women, Dr. Giordano explains. He says that some husbands work abroad for months at a time, turning to sex workers. When they return home, they pass the disease on to their wives. He also speaks of young women and girls who have no education and turn to sex work to survive.

The Giordanos have encouraged each Adventist church in Africa to become a safe place for those with the disease -- a place where patients can be honest about the problem without fearing rejection. AAIM's mission and motto is "Each Adventist Church, a support center for the community through church-based HIV/AIDS support groups."

While the Adventist Church has supported HIV/AIDS programs as far back as 1985 in Botswana at Kanye Adventist Hospital, AAIM's goal is to get every church member personally involved in helping those with the disease. The Giordanos say that every church they have visited in Africa has become an important partner in this ministry.

"We have not found anybody opposed to this. People are willing to help," Dr. Oscar Giordano says. "We are seeing our church congregations go house-to-house visiting people on a weekly basis doing home remedies, massage, bathing and washing them, bringing vegetables and food and providing company and encouragement, hope."

One support group of 10 women in Lesotho have put together money to feed one meal a day to 36 orphans whose parents have died from HIV/AIDS.

This kind of outreach improves the quality of life for people living with HIV/AIDS, according to the WHO.

"It is truly Christ's ministry in action," says Dr. Oscar Giordano.

Contracting HIV/AIDS is an added burden to those living in countries where poverty is often extreme. "Poverty can in turn affect the quality of treatment," Dr. Eugenia Giordano says.

"We went to a church in Kenya. There were about 29 members who were living in the slums," she recalls. "They all were getting medicine but could not afford to buy food." People cannot fight disease if they are malnourished, she says.

In response to these situations, AAIM has helped start and fund several small businesses. So far they have established work in eight countries and, most recently, have established programs in Lesotho, Uganda and Kenya.

"We do a combination of education and awareness with a practical solution to poverty," Dr. Oscar Giordano says. "Our strategy is to go to a country and ask them what their ideas are and how we can help."

"Many think that fighting HIV/AIDS needs a million dollars but ... there are many ideas that are wonderful and simple to do that are a source of income," Dr. Oscar Giordano says.

Some of these sources of income have made a difference, such as in Lesotho where AAIM provided funding to start a garden for those living with HIV/AIDS. They can then get an income from working with chickens, goats and growing vegetables.

In Lesotho, AAIM has begun sewing projects where women learn to sew, which in turn allows for a source of income. They have also done agricultural projects, even utilizing proper irrigation of a vegetable garden.

In Kenya, where three persons die of AIDS every five minutes, according to UNAIDS, learning to sew, starting a bakery and providing bicycles allow men with HIV/AIDS to deliver and sell baked goods.

"AAIM is very community-oriented. This is about opening the doors of our churches and welcoming people who have this problem," Dr. Oscar Giordano says. "We need to be open to all with a nonjudgmental attitude with lots of love and compassion and do what Jesus would have done in our place."

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Let's Talk with Dr Paulsen
held at
St. Louis, Missouri, July 7, 2005.
Taken from
http://www.adventistreview.org/issue.php?issue=2006-1507&page=8

Q: In Africa we are suffering from HIV/AIDS. What message do you give to the young people in connection with that?
 
PAULSEN: The church is massively involved in dealing with the problem, and asking: How do we treat people who carry HIV/AIDS? In terms of healing, it is a multinational, international undertaking. But every Adventist church should be a healing forum; it should be an environment in which those who carry HIV/AIDS can feel that they are not being shunned, and that there are, in fact, people who love them and will embrace them, and who will socially be loyal to them. The church is involved in Africa in a specific program to train our churches to become havens of refuge, havens of healing socially.

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