Lesotho: Sewing Teaches Women with HIV/AIDS Self-Sufficiency

May 10, 2005 Hlotse, Lesotho .... [AAIM/ANN Staff]

In a region where poverty and HIV/AIDS are inextricably linked, a recent workshop in Lesotho taught women sewing skills as a means of income generation. The "Workshop on Sewing for HIV Positive Women" is a small but significant step towards self-sufficiency where a third of the tiny country's adult population is living with HIV/AIDS.

Twenty-four women attended the six-day workshop organized by Dr. Eugenia Giordano, associate director of Adventist - AIDS International Ministry (AAIM) and Harilala Andriamahefa a trainer from Madagascar, in association with the Seventh-day Adventist Church in Lesotho.

The participants were a mix of Adventist and non-Adventist women who not only learned sewing skills but learned more about HIV and AIDS Awareness.

"Poverty is very much related with the HIV epidemic and the progression of AIDS. Many people infected with HIV die faster because of lack of food and basic care," Dr. Oscar Giordano, executive director of AAIM said.

"If people are trained in skills that will help in income generation, they will then eat better and live better, hence their lives will be prolonged," added Pastor Mainoane, president of the Adventist church in Lesotho. "The trainees here have been trained in order to be able to generate income for themselves, and above all, to be empowered to train others."

Income generation is difficult in Lesotho, where a large part of its economy is based on subsistence agriculture, according to the United Nations. This makes AIDS--which the government has declared a national disaster --an even more dangerous threat to the country's approximately 1.8 million residents.

This workshop was made possible because of a joint initiative of AAIM and a group of students from the Loma Linda University School of Public Health in California, United States. The students raised funds to purchase the sewing machines. The funds will also go to starting another "Poverty Alleviation Program" in the Northwestern part of the country.

Over several days the participants ... "shared with me their concerns and sufferings, their fear for the future, and the uncertainty on how they will feed their children and themselves. Most of the participants are HIV Positive women in a desperate situation, and have lost their husbands." said Dr. Eugenia Giordano.


One 27-year-old participant wrote the following testimony: "My husband died recently of AIDS, and I am also HIV positive. I have two children of four and two years old. I was frustrated and desperate about my future. I believe that because of this workshop my dreams will come true. I will be like other women. I will have my own business, and will be able to feed my children and secure their future."

The first lady of Lesotho, Mrs. Mathato S. Mosisili attended the closing ceremony of the workshop.

"You have made a difference in [these women's] lives. Now, they are able to focus their attention on their daily lives. They are able to see very clearly and to sleep peacefully and say 'tomorrow I will be able to do this...' Now, these women have something new to think about, and when they wake-up in the morning something important to do," said Mrs. Mosisili.

AAIM was started about a year ago as a joint project of the church's world headquarters, the church in Africa, the Adventist Development and Relief Agency (ADRA), and Loma Linda University and Medical Center to find resources for programs like this.

"Our dream is to see each of the churches transformed in a support center for the community through church-based support groups. We can make a difference in the lives of each of the people we reach on a one to one basis using Jesus' method and practicing His love and compassion. Given the magnitude of this tragedy of HIV and AIDS, we would like to hear fewer words and see more action. We would like to see this kind of programs multiplied all over Africa" said Dr. Oscar Giordano.

Excerpt taken from Adventist News Network: ORIGINAL DOCUMENT

Church Fights HIV-AIDS in Africa

An unscheduled presentation on the Adventist Church’s response to the HIV-AIDS epidemic proved to be one of the most moving parts thus far of this year’s Annual Council. On Sunday afternoon Dr. Allan Handysides, director of the GC Health Ministries Department, and Drs. Oscar and Eugenia Giordano, executive and associate directors of Adventist HIV-AIDS International Ministry (AAIM), highlighted the work of AAIM in Africa and showed a Hope for Humanity (North American Ingathering fund) video about an HIV-AIDS project in Dwarsloop, South Africa. The project, called “Nhlengelo: Standing Together Against HIV/AIDS in South Africa,” was captured in video footage taken when an eight-member team of Adventist pastors traveled to Dwarsloop to visit with project leaders and with people in the community who have HIV-AIDS.

How It Began
According to the report, the Dwarsloop program began with Paul Mawela, a retired pastor in the region, who felt that he was conducting too many funerals for young adults. “Almost every weekend we were burying a young person, who was leaving children behind,” said Mawela, who spoke on the video. “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].”

Mawela and pastors of other Christian churches in the region have formed a community-based organization to help take care of those suffering from the disease. “The project is called Nhlengelo, a Tsonga name for standing together against an enemy,” explained Mawela. “So we said, ‘Well, let us stand together against the enemy HIV-AIDS and other illnesses found in the community.’ ”

The goal of the program is to encourage other pastors and conference officials to come and see the community- and home-based projects, and then begin similar programs in their own communities.

Working Together
“It was exciting to see Seventh-day Adventists beginning to work with other denominations, particularly in the area of health, because we’ve worked in health for so long,” said Handysides. “The ones whom we met there had obviously bonded, and this was a team approach . . . to the community needs. That was extremely gratifying to me.”

Team members emphasized, however, that it’s the caregivers who are the “heart and soul” of the program. “They go into the homes of those who have HIV-AIDS and take care of whatever their needs are,” said Maitland DiPinto, director of Hope for Humanity. “They feed them, exercise their limbs, help clean the house, whatever needs to be done.”

Meeting the People
The pastors visited several homes of people who have HIV-AIDS, including that of a 36-year-old mother of three children, and another home of a 5-year-old girl. “It just broke your heart to see this precious little girl, so young, so innocent, and to know that she’s so sick and that [the family doesn’t] have what they need to take care of her,” said Frank Bondurant, assistant to the president of NAD’s Chesapeake Conference.

“HIV-AIDS is to my mind one of the most lethal epidemics that has ever hit mankind,” said Handysides. “The problem with HIV-AIDS is that it’s an epidemic in slow motion. It’s not ravaging in one year, but it’s like you take a movie of a cheetah and run it in slow motion. But let me tell you that it’s going to be just as fast and just as devastating when we look at it over time, because we don’t have a cure for it.

“We visited five homes in this quarter-of-a-mile region, and in every home there is somebody lying there with HIV,” he added. “That’s the human tragedy that’s behind all this.”

Project leaders on the video explained that many of the orphaned children being cared for have lost both parents. “These are really children, but they are now heads of the households,” said Royce Snyman, associate Ministerial director of the Michigan Conference in NAD and one of the team members. “And they’re not necessarily teenagers. They may be young children—6, 7, 8 years old—but technically you call them ‘head of household’ because that’s all that’s left.”

In spite of their situation, team members described the children as happy and wanting to minister to others. “They touch your hearts, and when you realize what they’re going through and the fact that they still have that smile that comes across their face, it really makes an impact on your life,” said Snyman. “And you say . . . how grateful [you are] that Mrs. Mawela and Pastor Mawela are ministering to these kids, and we can have a part in that.

“I hope to be able to extend the ministry of the Mawelas by saying there are opportunities here for us to care for these people, and they really need our help,” he added.

A Change of Attitude
“Hope for Humanity is coming to this program saying, ‘Here are some challenges, here are some needs,’ ” explained John Appel, senior pastor of the Frederick, Maryland, Adventist Church in NAD. “We are a world church. We can’t just stay focused congregationally; we’ve got to start thinking about our brothers and sisters across the world who need our help.”

Giordano reported that according to percentages found by a 2003 ADRA survey, AAIM has estimated that more than 500,000 Adventists in the three African divisions have HIV-AIDS, which is more than 10 percent of the total Adventist population. This means that an average of 4,018 Adventists die each year, 337 die each month, and 12 die each day as a result of this disease.

Even though the mission of AAIM includes meeting the basic physical and emotional needs of those suffering from this disease, Giordano added that the “most important goal is to change attitudes. The majority of our church members living with the virus suffer and die secretly because they fear stigmatization and discrimination.”

He added, “We want to treat people how Jesus would—with care, love, and compassion. We want to do for them what we would like done for us if we were in their situation.”

Excerpt taken from Adventist Review website: ORIGINAL DOCUMENT


Africa: What Would Jesus Do for HIV/AIDS Patients?






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."

Excerpt taken from Adventist News Network: ORIGINAL DOCUMENT

Director Chosen for World Church HIV/AIDS Ministry

May 30, 2002 --

Dr. Oscar Giordano, currently health ministries director for the Indian Ocean Union Mission, in Africa, was approved by the GC administrative committee May 13 to head up the new Office of HIV/AIDS Ministry, which will be located in Johannesburg, South Africa.

"The AIDS epidemic represents a great challenge for all Seventh-day Adventists," says Dr. Giordano, who, with his family, has served as a medical missionary for the past 11 years in Rwanda, Burundi, Zaire, and Madagascar. "Our church has a special opportunity to serve humanity in this regard both spiritually and medically."

The initiative is aimed at providing better focus and coordination to the church's response to HIV/AIDS. It will focus on care and vocational training for AIDS orphans and widows, treatment for those infected, and a widespread education and prevention effort in churches, schools, and communities.

"Never before has the church attempted to pull together so many of its different entities to focus on one public health issue," says Dr. Allan Handysides, GC health ministries director. The initiative is a joint project of the General Conference, divisions based on the African continent, the Adventist Development and Relief Agency, Loma Linda University and Medical Center, and the Adventist Health Sciences Center. Dr. Handysides says he has been awed by the unwavering commitment of church leaders to the project--"from church administrators in Africa, to the GC president, who has given ongoing support, to vice president Pastor Leo Ranzolin, who chaired the AIDS Study Commission, to vice president Pastor Lowell Cooper, who has worked to move this initiative forward."

General Conference president Pastor Jan Paulsen says that if he has one regret regarding the church's response to HIV/AIDS, it is that an overarching, coordinated approach has come so late in the day. It is a mistake for anyone to assume that this is "not an Adventist problem," he adds. "As one of our leaders in Africa has said, it would be difficult to find one Adventist family in Africa that has not been impacted by AIDS."

For Dr. Giordano, the initiative represents a new era in the church's response to the disease. "I pray and hope that our new office will contribute to better coordinate actions and resources, and present a united front in order to accomplish what our Lord Jesus Christ has commissioned each of us to do."

--General Conference, Presidential News Briefing, (ANN)

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