Today being December 1st, is World Aids Day, the first of which was held in 1988. It is a day for reflection, a moment to commemorate people who have lost their lives to HIV, a time to acknowledge progress made, and to look to the future with all that remains to be done. As an organisation, The Stephen Lewis Foundation certainly does all that. Tremendous strides have been made in the 30 or so years since this scourge hit the world. Most if not all of the SLF-supported projects in sub-Saharan Africa were started at a time of dark despair and hopelessness when the only thing that could be done for HIV sufferers was to help them die with as much comfort and dignity as possible.
Over the past year Ujamaa Grandmas have had the opportunity to host three of our partners: Evelyne Bakenyaga from Ujanda, Ida Nambeya Mukuka from Zambia and Eunice Mangwane from South Africa. What a wonderful privilege it has been to meet, get to know and form personal connections with these African sisters. Ida introduced herself this way: “ I stand before you as a very proud HIV-positive African woman”. Eunice shared with us the anguish of learning her daughter and grandson were HIV-positive. These grandmothers have all lived through those dark early days of the pandemic and spoke to us movingly about its impact on their families and communities. Now, with the advent of ARV medication, the mobilisation of grandmothers as advocates and leaders and the forming of community-based support groups such as the ones SLF works with, the situation is greatly improved..
However, despite these improvements, the facts and figures around HIV/AIDS are still horrendous. In sub-Saharan Africa, there are 5000 new infections among young women and girls every two weeks and approximately 37 million people are living with HIV/AIDS worldwide. So indeed, there is still much to be done. This week, December 5th marks International Volunteer Day, a good time to reflect on how proud I am to be part of this wonderful volunteer group called Ujamaa Grandmas. Through many hours of dedicated volunteer work, we have raised funds that are making a real difference in the lives of our African Grandma sisters as they care for their families and communities living with the effects of HIV/AIDS. Many thanks to all Ujamaa volunteers.
Wishing you all the best as we come into this holiday season.