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To the first edition of the Adventist - HIV-AIDS International Ministry (AAIM) On-line NEWSLETTER
From Johannesburg, South Africa - April 2004

This means of communication is aimed to share the latest news on HIV-AIDS within the Seventh-day Adventist Church in Africa, and to pass on valuable information about projects and other initiatives that could eventually be multiplied in other fields. This will also help our church leadership, HIV-AIDS field commissions, SDA institutions and organizations, and church members to keep updated on the developments of the SDA fight against this pandemic.

The AAIM Team is willing to publish in this newsletter any initiatives and interventions from the Seventh-day Adventist Church related with the battle against HIV-AIDS in Africa. We will appreciate your contributions to enrich this publication. This first edition includes the last quarter of 2003 and the first quarter of 2004. We apologize for the length of this message. The format of future editions will be shorter, comprising of one quarter at a time. We welcome your comments to help us improve this Newsletter. 

Hoping that this Newsletter will become a useful tool for your ministry, we pray that the Lord will bless any initiative and action in favor of the People Living With HIV-AIDS (PLWHA), and also the millions of people affected by this disease.

Following the example of Jesus-Christ, we pray that through the HIV-AIDS Ministry, PLWHA will find the wholeness of healing, comfort, and hope.

                                                                                    Dr. Oscar A. Giordano, MD., MPH
AAIM - Executive Director


HIV-AIDS Workshop in Nairobi - Kenya (November 2003)

Adventist church representatives from the East-Central Africa Division (ECD) and the General Conference met in Nairobi from November 10-13, 2004, to attend the sessions of the first HIV-AIDS Workshop in this Division organized by GC-AHM, ECD-AHM, ADRA, POLICY Project/ Kenya, and USAID/Kenya. It was a very successful program which contributed to a better understanding of the problem and the many possibilities for interventions from SDA churches and organizations. Conferences and workshops considered the most important HIV-AIDS issues; identifying the problems and proposing short and long term solutions. The president of the Seventh-day Adventist Church, Pastor Jan Paulsen, accompanied by his wife Mrs. Kari Paulsen were among the participants endorsing with their presence the attention that the Seventh-day Adventist Church gives to this pandemic which is taking many lives inside and outside the church.

Following the workshop, Dr. Lester Wright and Dr. Oscar Giordano were invited to address a large number of people at Uhuru Park in Nairobi, on Sabbath November 15. It was a great opportunity to raise awareness on HIV-AIDS issues and to emphasize the participation of the Seventh-day Adventist Church in the fight against this disease.

HIV-AIDS Projects in the Indian Ocean (November 2003)

Progress has been achieved in the implementation of HIV-AIDS projects in Madagascar. An important project of $40,000 financed by the Government of Madagascar has been implemented by the SDA Women’s Ministry Department of the Indian Ocean Union Mission. The HIV-AIDS Union Commission has also participated in preliminary meetings. Through this project, 107 women and 76 SDA district pastors from around the country were trained to deliver a message of education and prevention on HIV-AIDS through the Adventist churches located throughout the country. During this program 54,000 people have been sensitized to HIV-AIDS and related issues.

In preparation of this and other projects AAIM and ADRA/Madagascar previously organized a Workshop and a HIV-AIDS Health Fair at the Adventist Health System Headquarters in Antananarivo on June 15, 2003. Several Union Department Directors and members of the HIV-AIDS Union Commission participated under the coordination of Dr. Oscar Giordano (AAIM Director) and Mr. Sony Rasoanindrainy (HIV-AIDS Projects Consultant & Moderator). 

The Adventist Church in Swaziland goes public on HIV-AIDS (December 2003)

The Adventist Church in Swaziland went public on HIV-AIDS issues during the “Behavior & Lifestyle Change Summit” program organized for the AIDS International Day on Sabbath November 29, 2003 in the Bosco Skill Centre Stadium. This event was organized by the officers of the SDA Swaziland field, together with Dr. Jun Negre (SW-AHM Director) and Pr. Tankiso Letseli (SAU AHM Director). Dr. Oscar Giordano gave two presentations on STIs/HIV-AIDS & Lifestyle which was followed by a panel of experts on HIV-AIDS. The public (Adventists and non-Adventists) had the opportunity to ask questions during the open forum, and to participate in the program. There was a drama presentation and singing groups. Swaziland is among the countries with the highest HIV prevalence in the world with 34 to 38% of its population HIV+.   

AAIM Office Becomes Operational (January 5, 2004)

The Adventist – HIV-AIDS International Ministry Africa Office (AAIM) opened at the beginning of 2004. The office is located in Randburg in the North-Western part of Johannesburg, South Africa.

This office has been organized to serve the three African Divisions of the Seventh-day Adventist Church regarding HIV-AIDS and related issues. The members of the team are Dr. Oscar A. Giordano, MD., MPH. (AAIM Executive Director), Dr. Eugenia Giordano MD., MPH. (AAIM Associate Director), Mr. Alain Ikito, MBA (Accountant/Secretary), and Miss Angeles Giordano (Student Missionary). Previous to the office opening, this team worked in the preparation of several projects which are in the implementation process. It is our hope and prayer that this office will be of help to all the SDA African fields in their strategies and interventions to alleviate the suffering of those touched by the HIV-AIDS pandemic as well as to help prevent this disease.

Indian Ocean Women’s Ministries HIV-AIDS Project Completed! (January 2004)

The project “HIV-AIDS Education and Awareness through Women’s Ministries” has been completed with excellent results which exceeded everyone’s expectations. Congratulations to the IOUM-Women’s Ministries Team!   

AAIM Director, Dr. Oscar Giordano, participated in the closing session where he presented the subject, “The Importance of Women’s Participation in Fighting HIV-AIDS,” and participated in the closing/evaluation session of the project. This session took place in Antananarivo on January 19, 2004. Other projects are currently being prepared for the Indian Ocean Union in the areas of education, testing, and prevention of mother to child transmission. The Minister of Health of Madagascar has welcomed these initiatives from the Seventh-day Adventist Church and has authorized their implementation. 

Series of Audiovisual Presentations on HIV-AIDS (January 2004)

AAIM has been invited to do audiovisual presentations on HIV-AIDS Education and Awareness for the American Embassy, American Cultural Center, and USAID personnel. The American Embassy in Madagascar has sponsored the HIV-AIDS Health Fair organized by AAIM in August, 2003. As a result of this program, the American Embassy has contributed $3,800 to the advancement of the Adventist medical work in Madagascar. These presentations are taking place monthly from January to April, 2004. A team from the Indian Ocean Adventist Health System is in charge of the presentations with materials provided by the AAIM office in Johannesburg. We hope that this experience will be reproduced in other countries.

Tri-Divisional HIV-AIDS Advisory in Johannesburg (February 2004)

In February, 2004, the three Division's Health Ministries Directors together with the AAIM Directors met in Johannesburg to discuss future strategies for this office. It was a very successful meeting which gave the opportunity for the participants to interact in sharing ideas and plans to organize HIV-AIDS coordinated actions throughout the continent of Africa. Dr. Fesaha Tsegaye (ECD - AHM Director), Dr. Alex Llaguno (SID - AHM Director), Dr. George Sanz (WAD - AHM Director), Dr. Oscar Giordano (AAIM Director), Dr. Eugenia Giordano (AAIM Associate Director – by teleconference), and Miss Angeles Giordano (student missionary), participated in this exercise which included: 1) sessions of strategic planning, 2) projects- review and planning, 3) sharing of information from the different fields (itineraries, meetings, etc.), 4) listing of known SDA/HIV-AIDS projects in the continent, and 5) communications with the fields. It was a special opportunity for AAIM to interact with all the Division Health Directors. These meetings will facilitate a better coordinated work between this office and the three division territories.

“Sexuality Curriculum Framework” French translation (February 2004)

The “Sexuality Curriculum Framework” was prepared by the General Conference Family Life Department (GC-FL) under the direction of Ron and Karen Flowers. AAIM was commissioned to translate the material in French which was completed and submitted for editing at the GC-FL in October, 2003. We are very glad to have received the edited version. This material on human sexuality will be used to instruct children and adolescents from pre-school, primary and secondary-school levels. It is very important that SDA Schools and Churches provide correct information on human sexuality, as well as help parents to deliver the right message on this subject according to God’s plan of creation. The time has arrived for issues on human sexuality not to constitute a taboo in our church anymore. Misinformation from the world will otherwise mislead our children and our youth. This material is now available in English and French to cover the majority of the Sub-Saharan African countries.

AAIM participates at the West-Central Africa Division (WAD) Health Advisory (February / March2004)
Survey of HIV-AIDS activities in WAD

AAIM was among the participants of the WAD Health Advisory held in Abidjan, Ivory Coast, from the 2nd to 6th of March, 2004, under the direction of Dr. George Sanz. WAD officers and several Adventist Health Ministries (AHM) directors, from unions representing most of the countries of this division, participated in the program. The General Conference AHM Department was represented by Pastor Stoy Proctor and Dr. Kathleen Kuntaraf. It was an excellent advisory which has given a unique opportunity for AAIM to interact with the AHM directors. It also allowed sharing information and discussing future actions in favor of the HIV-AIDS Ministry of our church in the WAD territory. Dr. Oscar Giordano conducted a survey of HIV-AIDS activities in WAD, and participated in the program through audiovisual presentations and meeting with several participants. We appreciated very much the organization of this program and pray that it will produce abundant results for the advancement of the health message in the Division; particularly the message of HIV-AIDS education, awareness, and assistance. Let us remember that in the WAD territory there are more than 7,000,000 PLWHA. The HIV prevalence is currently increasing in most of the countries of this Division.  

HIV-AIDS activities at Valley View Adventist University (March 2004)

Following the meetings in Abidjan, AAIM visited Valley View Adventist University in Ghana (VVU) from the 7th to 11th of March, 2004. During this visit we had the opportunity to address the officers and staff of VVU on important Sexually Transmitted Infections (STIs) and particularly HIV-AIDS issues. The University Curriculum on HIV-AIDS prepared by Loma Linda University Professors H. Elder and J. Lewis, was presented for consideration at Valley View University with the intention of incorporating this knowledge to the regular courses given at this institution. In this manner, each of the students at the University will be well informed and will become an agent for peer education and counseling on HIV-AIDS matters in their respective communities and working places. Dr. Daniel Opoky-Boateng, University Acting President said, “The timing of this visit could not have been better, the timing of God is perfect because the University will receive, in April, a new staff member who will be dedicated to Public Health issues and this material will certainly help him to develop a curriculum on HIV-AIDS.”

Up to date information was shared with the student body in two separate meetings; one for female and the other for male students. These meetings gave the opportunity to talk freely about delicate issues, and answer students’ questions. A survey on HIV-AIDS knowledge of transmission and prevention and sexual behavior was conducted with 200 participants. A session of Interdisciplinary Forum allowed AAIM to interact with a large group of students answering their questions about future HIV-AIDS plans in the university. We greatly appreciated the warm welcome and hard work from VVU’s students, faculty and staff.

HIV-AIDS activities at the Ghana Union Health Advisory and SDA Churches in Ghana (March 2004)
Advent Press Accra

After the visit to VVU, AAIM participated in the Ghana Union Health Advisory with the presence of the Ghana Union officers, field presidents, and the AHM field directors. The meetings took place in the city of Kumazi. Dr. Oscar Giordano made presentations to share information and raise awareness on STIs and HIV-AIDS. The interaction with the Church Leadership in Ghana was very positive, and the creation of an HIV-AIDS Commission at the Ghana SDA Medical Services level will greatly contribute in the management of HIV-AIDS issues in the several medical institutions belonging to the Ghana Union.

Presentations on HIV-AIDS were given for the first time to two of the most important churches in Ghana; “Prince Emmanuel,” in Accra, and “Amakam SDA Church” in Kumazi. Also for the first time, important issues on human sexuality and sexually transmitted diseases were discussed with these two congregations. Several pastors and Adventist health professionals present among the audience expressed their satisfaction for sharing with the church members issues that were never openly discussed in the church before. Denial and silence are common denominators in most of the SDA churches in Africa. An urgent attitude change is necessary in order to accept and treat with dignity and respect the PLWHA, as well as to keep informed and updated all the members, and particularly to protect our youth.

We had the opportunity to visit the Advent Press in Accra in order to obtain information and obtain an estimate to print the “Sexuality Curriculum Framework” in English and French for the WAD countries. 

HIV-AIDS Projects in the Indian Ocean (March 2004)

This past March, the HIV-AIDS series of presentations in collaboration with the American Embassy in Madagascar continued, and an invitation to organize voluntary counseling and testing for the American community and workers in Madagascar was presented to AAIM. We expect to raise funds through this type of interventions. A meeting with the Union Education director, Mr. F. Razafindrakoto, was held in order to continue organizing the implementation of the “Sexuality Curriculum Framework” in all the primary and secondary schools of this Union. The preliminary version in French was presented at this meeting as well. Another meeting was held with Mr. Sony Rasoanindrainy (HIV-AIDS Projects Consultant) for the implementation of the Project of Prevention of Mother to Child Transmission of HIV (PMCT). Preliminary contacts were made with Andapa SDA Hospital, where we hope to start this project soon, with the possibility of increasing the interventions in the northern part of Madagascar, according to the Ministry of Health PMCT Medical Director’s plan.

Women Empowerment Seminar - Training on HIV-AIDS Pastoral Counseling (March 2004)

A Seminar on “Women Empowerment and HIV-AIDS” was conducted by Dr. Eugenia Giordano in Mauritius. A large audience representing several districts of the Mauritius Conference (FEAM) attended the program. A presentation on sexuality education for children was part of the program.

A seminar on “STIs & HIV-AIDS Pastoral Counseling” was conducted by Dr. Oscar A. Giordano. The Officers of the Conference, together with a group of Pastors and Elders attended the Seminar.

A newly organized HIV-AIDS Commission at this Conference level is a result of this and previous meetings. We appreciated the support of the officers and staff of this Conference. Pastor Samuel Ravonjiarivelo, President FEAM, expressed a positive reception for the training of Pastors and committed himself to sustain the HIV-AIDS Commission. We thank Mrs. Francoise Bru (AHM Director) for the planning and coordination of this program.