WORLD AIDS DAY: Salesian Missions highlights programs that provide medical care and social support to youth with HIV/AIDS
2021 theme is ‘Ending the HIV Epidemic: Equitable Access, Everyone’s Voice’.
NEW ROCHELLE, NY (Dec. 1, 2021) Salesian Missions, the U.S. development arm of the Salesians of Don Bosco, joins humanitarian organizations and countries around the globe in honoring World AIDS Day celebrated each year on Dec. 1. The day is held to honor AIDS victims and focuses on prevention and treatment issues surrounding HIV (human immunodeficiency virus) and AIDS (acquired immune deficiency syndrome).
World AIDS Day originated at the 1988 World Summit of Ministers of Health on Programs for AIDS Prevention. Every year since then, United Nations agencies, governments and civil society join together to campaign around specific themes related to AIDS.
With this year’s theme “Ending the HIV Epidemic: Equitable Access, Everyone’s Voice,” the Joint United Nations Program on HIV and AIDS (UNAIDS) is highlighting the urgent need to end the inequalities that drive AIDS and other pandemics around the world. It has been 40 years since the first HIV cases were reported. UNAIDS noted, “HIV still threatens the world. Today, the world is off track from delivering on the shared commitment to end AIDS by 2030 not because of a lack of knowledge or tools to beat AIDS, but because of structural inequalities that obstruct proven solutions to HIV prevention and treatment.”
Salesian missionaries offer more than 150 medical clinics and hospitals around the globe that handle a wide range of medical care needs and are mostly in rural areas. HIV/AIDS prevention and testing programs are vital components of Salesian health care initiatives in Africa.
“The work of Salesian missionaries around the globe goes beyond education to ensure the well-being of our students,” said Father Gus Baek, director of Salesian Missions. “We aim to serve the whole person by making sure that basic needs like health and nutrition are met in addition to other social service needs. Medical programs, particularly those focused on the treatment of HIV/AIDS, ensure that those who are living in poverty still have access to the medical care they need even when they cannot afford to pay for it.”
On World AIDS Day 2021, Salesian Missions is proud to highlight programs that provide medical care and other critical HIV/AIDS services around the globe.
Don Bosco Anbu Illam, located in Namakkal, Tamil Nadu, India, received donor funding from Salesian Missions to help support its Don Bosco Care Home program, which provides for youth who have HIV/AIDS. Don Bosco Care Home serves at-risk youth and those with a positive HIV diagnosis. Currently, there are 47 boarders at the home.
Youth are also are able to access medical care. Regular medical check-ups are provided by a team of doctors who come to Don Bosco Care Home and conduct medical camps where youth can access critical antiretroviral therapy treatments (ART). Youth who do not live at the home, including those who attend the local polytechnic college, also have access to the program’s ART treatments.
At Don Bosco Care Home, youth are also able to access psychological support through counseling and psychotherapy sessions. Trained and experienced social workers and counselors conduct these sessions where youth are able to address their mental health needs and are motivated to lead a positive life.
The program has been particularly effective because youth are able to study and build peer relationships in a safe and supportive environment free from the stigma and rejection they previously encountered. In addition to their school studies, boys take care of the animals and birds at the facility and work the land cultivating fruits and vegetables. They also participate in sports each day. Special programs are also provided including comedy, singing and dancing, which the boys participate in with enthusiasm.
Don Bosco House in Abidjan, the economic capital of the Ivory Coast, has a psychological care center where trained educators help youth work toward emotional healing and well-being. The Don Bosco House provides programs for street children and other at-risk youth, including those with HIV/AIDS. Many have experienced abuse and violence.
The government of the Ivory Coast, in collaboration with UNICEF, conducted a study into child abuse in the country and found that 86.5 percent of children between the ages of 1-14 have been victims of violent disciplinary action including psychological, emotional or physical abuse. To help respond to the issues of violence against children, the Salesian community of Abidjan provides several programs and awareness activities related to the protection of children including launching a new psychological care center.
The Ivory Coast has one of the highest HIV/AIDS prevalence rates in West Africa. While a wide range of national and international initiatives focus on HIV/AIDS awareness, prevention and testing, the collapse of public health facilities in the north as a result of years of conflict has made the situation worse.
Salesian missionaries have been working with poor youth and their families in Abidjan for more than 25 years. They provide social development services, education and workforce development to help youth break the cycle of poverty and become contributing members of their communities.
Salesian Missions is committed to improving the well-being of children and families in Uganda, a country rebuilding after decades of war while facing a serious increase of HIV/AIDS cases which have left millions of children orphaned. The Don Bosco Children and Life Mission, located in the town of Namugongo just 10 miles northeast of the city of Kampala in Central Uganda, received funding from Salesian Missions donors to support a Salesian program that helps children living in poverty who are HIV positive.
The program provides educational courses, medical treatment, medicines and nutritional meals for youth living with HIV/AIDS. These youth are also eligible to receive counseling, recreation opportunities, medical observation and critical ART treatments.
The Don Bosco Children and Life Mission provides more than 140 at-risk boys ages 6-18 access to primary, secondary and technical education, along with sports programming, youth clubs, guidance counseling and life skills training. Students also have the opportunity to participate in a variety of extracurricular activities including jazz band, brass band, acrobatics and programs by Youth Alive Uganda, an organization that works with youth to promote social skills and values.
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