Don’t Give Up the Fight – World AIDS Day 2014

Chances are, if you’re reading this, you’re not only personally affected by, but personally invested in doing something about the issue of HIV-AIDS crisis in East Africa – beyond the point of simply “making people aware” of the issue.

But how do we do that? How do we move into action? And how can other people who may not be personally connected to East Africa actually do something to make a change?  And are the current programs, education, and outreach even working?

Eliya Alloyce and Dan Holcomb

Thankfully, there has been great progress. Dan Holcomb, Director of Lahash International, says, “I’ve seen some great progress during the past several years.  AIDS is still wreaking havoc in the region.  But there is a much greater level of awareness in the schools, churches and society in general. It now seems to be perceived as less of a random evil force than it used to be. There is better access to medicine and it is discussed quite openly in the media in the region.”

“The crisis of HIV/AIDS is one of the key reasons I became involved in the region of East Africa and why I work to improve the lives of suffering kids,” continues Dan. “But there’s so much more we can do. We can’t give up the fight.”

AIDS related deaths in Sub-Saharan Africa have dropped 33% in the past decade and the number of new HIV infections in the region is 25% less over a similar period. Churches are taking action, and increasingly AIDS is being brought out of the shadows and being treated with the seriousness it deserves. Awareness is spreading through creative education and through the courageous stories of those infected with the disease. Hope is alive.

Eliya Alloyce is one face of both the tragedy and the hope. Eliya lives in Dodoma, Tanzania, and was born with HIV. He is currently sixteen years old. He has been on the brink of death on several occasions in his life. His parents are both presumed dead, and he doesn’t get the fundamental nutrition and care that is needed to survive the disease. However, through the efforts of programs put together by Lahash and its partners, he’s continued to grow and show the world that his spirit and body won’t be conquered or defined by this disease. Eliya is alive today because of the hard work of Lahash and our partners. He’s bright, cheerful, friendly, and open about his status.

Eliya has shown that living – and thriving – with HIV can be a reality.

Edwin Angote, Lahash’s East Africa Director, reflects on one of the programs Lahash sponsors every year: Rice & Beans Month. “Every March, the Lahash community eats rice and beans as a way to raise money for programs implemented in East Africa.  The program supplies basic nutrition in many communities, but it also gives the children something that is even more important: hope.” This year 25 HIV positive children in central Tanzania were recipients of an amazing nutrition program that provides three large and nutritious meals a week.

Eliya Alloyce, Dodoma, Tanzania

But Edwin also talks about the ongoing personal destruction AIDS continues to bring to the people in the region. “AIDS has brought along so much personal pain.  I have lost an aunt and a cousin, and have seen my cousins left orphans and some of them ending up being married early so as to escape poverty.”

Jeanette Nyakyema, director of Path of Hope, located in Tanzania, also reminds us that the fight is far from over.  “There are more than 2 million people in Tanzania living with HIV/AIDS.  Being in contact with infected adults and children has shown me the needs and devastation in their lives.”

So what does this mean? And what should our responses as Christians be, not just on World AIDS Day, but throughout the rest of the year?  “Christians around the world cannot let up on this fight,” says Dan.  “We need to reach out in love and service to those around the world with AIDS. For those of us that follow Jesus, this is an amazing opportunity to be the hands of Christ to our suffering neighbors. We must rise up and be a part of the team to bring this disease to its knees. We must spread awareness with courage and diligence. We must continue to pray that God will help us and guide us in this endeavor. God is deeply concerned with this global pandemic and the beautiful men, women, and children affected by it. We must follow him courageously, compassionately, and sacrificially.”

Today, will you join your voice with Eliya and the rest of our team in spreading awareness? Will you commit to fighting alongside our team? Here are a few ways you can do that today.

  1. Share the graphic below on social media or post it on your blog or email it to your relatives. Awareness is an important first step.
  2. Sponsor a child. Lahash cares for many children (like Eliya) infected and affected by HIV/AIDS. You can visit our Sponsorship page to see some profiles of kids and begin to sponsor one of them each month. Your efforts can make a huge impact for generations.
  3. Please also spend time in prayer today. Pray that those in the medical community and in scientific research will have great success in finding a cure and improving treatment of those with HIV/AIDS. Pray for the response of the global community and the church in particular that we will not forget our brothers and sisters who are suffering.