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Global AIDS Interfaith Alliance (GAIA)

By Global AIDS Interfaith Alliance

March 1, 2003

Culture of silence

When you work in Africa you become aware that the culture of silence surrounding HIV is nourished by the stigmatization of people living with HIV. A surprising news item recently described a moment of unprecedented candor:

A Malawi cabinet minister stunned his staff on Monday by openly announcing that he had lost three children to AIDS and condemning the taboos and stigmas surrounding the disease. Lands Minister Thengo Maloya was reported by the country's two dailies to have made the revelations at an HIV/AIDS seminar in the administrative capital of Lilongwe. Maloya, 56, said that his two sons and a daughter were in their 20s when they died from AIDS. ?This is a serious issue. It means me. It means you,? Maloya said while condemning the secrecy surrounding the disease.
(Agence France Presse, February 18, 2003)

A great deal of our work at the grassroots level addresses HIV/AIDS stigma through the education of clergy, educators, and local people. By training the religious infrastructures on which the population depends we help people de-mystify HIV and understand its basic biological characteristics. We support and encourage leaders in addressing the HIV/AIDS issue frankly, openly, and with compassion. We believe this to be an important step away from stigma, denial, silence, and judgmental attitudes.

One village at a time

A highly effective way to support local Malawi communities is to provide assistance to village level projects. Congregations, organizations, and individuals are helping us support the villages by providing grants for these through GAIA. Since our last report of these partnerships in January the following new ones have been forged: Christ Church in Los Altos California is supporting the Tiyamike School in Ntiya for AIDS orphans with a grant of $1000. St. Luke?s Church of Darien Connecticut is providing $2000 to the Churches Action for Relief and Development (CARD) HIV prevention and orphan care program in Blantyre. The Institute for Family Development International has given a total of $5000, partnering with Chancellor College, Zomba, to provide full tuition and housing for a village woman to complete her studies, with TAKAO, in Blantyre, to buy and install an industrial oven to train women as bakers, and with the Lifeline Clinic in Ngodzi to construct a maize mill. Other partnerships are forming, and we are delighted.

A message from Central Africa

Recently this word came from an infant care home with which a California parish is finalizing a partnership. We rejoice that they will soon receive much-needed help:

Malawi has been in the grip of a serious food shortage for some time. This is expected to carry into next year. It is now very much more difficult to return our two year olds to their communities as grand parents are finding it difficult to feed themselves let alone hungry infants. There appears to be no end in sight to the AIDS scourge in Malawi, each of the last five of our kids tested positive....

most of our orphanages are full to bursting. This leaves us no alternative but to build a new unit to house up to 12 kids 2 years old and up until maybe 5 years. We are reluctant to go down this road, as we have always seen ourselves as a transition home but this choice is being made for us.
(From Neville Bevis at Open Arms Infant Care Home, Blantyre, Malawi)

GAIA remains very grateful for the wonderful support of so many people in our country. With the generous support of our donors we have been able to make a difference. For further information, please contact William Rankin, GAIA President, at Wrankin@thegaia.org.

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