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
"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
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
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
"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.
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:
Church Fights HIV-AIDS
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.
“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
“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
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.
Change of Attitude
Africa: What Would Jesus Do for
“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
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
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
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
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
"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
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
"It is truly Christ's ministry in action," says Dr.
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
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
Excerpt taken from
Adventist News Network:
Director Chosen for World Church HIV/AIDS Ministry
30, 2002 --
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
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
"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
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,