Never Look Back

This past weekend, a group of us gathered to run in the Atlanta 10-Miler to build awareness and raise support for CARE for AIDS. I hope to see some of you out there next year!

The back of our jersey’s read, “Never Look Back.”

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This phrase is significant for a number of reasons. Practically speaking, when you are running a race, it is not in your best interest to look backwards, but instead, look ahead to the finish.

These words also carry significance for our clients because we don’t want them to be defined by their past. We want them to look forward with great hope and expectation for the future.

Lastly, this phrase has meaning to the global HIV/AIDS crisis. We are at a crossroads in the fight against HIV/AIDS, and our response may determine the course of this crisis for decades to come. We have experienced so many successes in recent years including the fact that deaths and new infections are down 40% from a decade ago. If we fail to respond strategically and decisively, though, we could end up a decade from now in a worse place than where we are today.

The UN has unveiled a new initiative called the 90-90-90 plan to eliminate the disease by 2030. Read this article to learn more about this plan. While this plan is a great goal to strive for, what does it mean for each of us personally? How can individuals play a part in ending HIV/AIDS in this generation?

Below are four ways I believe you can make a significant impact as an individual in the global fight against HIV/AIDS:

1. Increase Giving – We need to see about a 25% increase in funding globally next year alone to stay on track with the UN’s goals. Funding will need to increase from there as less people die from HIV/AIDS, and therefore, more people will require ongoing ARV treatment. We often take for granted that ARV treatment is free in public hospitals in Kenya. It wasn’t always that way, and there is no guarantee it will stay that way – especially if funding continues to decrease.

2. Leverage Social Influence – We need to reignite the public and political will to see the end of the HIV/AIDS crisis by 2030. This issue is one that has vanished from Western media outlets and many perceive HIV/AIDS as “under control.” We need to stay informed and build interest in this issue again, so we can reengage the public in ending the pandemic.

3. Support Holistic Solutions – In the article above, Dr. Salim Karim says, The impediments that exist are not medical; they’re social and political.” Stigma is still one of the greatest challenges in convincing people to get tested and receive treatment. This disease has many complex facets, and we need solutions that are equally as diverse. Programs and treatment plans need to address the physical, spiritual, emotional, economic, and social needs of men and women living with this disease.

4. Pray – Keep praying for all who are affected by this crisis. Whether that person is living with it, caring for those with it, researching it, funding it… we need to pray for resolve to continue pressing forward and never looking back!

What can you do today to join in this global fight: pray, give, post?

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Expectations

This morning we would like for you to hear from CARE for AIDS supporter and Impact Trip participant, John Nolan. When asked about his expectations versus the reality of his time in Kenya with his family, John gave a beautiful and honest answer…

 

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A New Hope

Benson’s problems with alcohol began after the disintegration of his marriage. Following the birth of their daughter in 1989, Benson says the relationship with his wife was like living on a roller coaster.

“It was up, down, up, down,” he explains. “We lived like enemies.”

When Benson’s wife left to return to the home of her parents, taking their young daughter with her, he turned to alcohol to help him numb the pain.

“I started drinking like crazy,” he says in a gruff voice. “It pains me even talking about it.”

Despite his drinking, Benson maintained a relationship with his daughter, who is now married with a child of her own, and was eventually able to build a friendship with her mother. Tragically, Benson’s struggle with alcohol left him exposed to a number of other problems, and, in 1999, he found out he was HIV positive.

“I stayed in bed for one whole month,” he says. “My body was so weak, and I didn’t know what happened.”

Benson explains that back in the late 1990s and the early 2000s, many clinics in Kenya were hesitant to share test results with their patients. Oftentimes those who were, in fact, HIV positive were simply given medicine to take and sent home. This is what happened to Benson.

“It was taboo to talk about, even when I was admitted to the hospital,” he says. “I kept thinking, ‘Why am I taking these drugs?’ And then I went to a clinic and they asked if I wanted to be tested for HIV. I said, ‘Yeah, that’s what I’ve been waiting for!’”

CARE for AIDS entered Benson’s life when he overheard a group of women talking about the center.

“It’s a real community,” he says of his experience there. “And when I meet people who are also sick, they talk about [HIV]. I come every week and it’s useful. We talk…and I have a new hope.”

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Benson’s story is one of 100 stories published in the CARE for AIDS coffee table book, 100 Faces. You can purchase a copy here.

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