GLOBAL: World AIDS Day: Salesian Missions Highlights Programs Providing HIV/AIDS Education and Health Services
(MissionNewswire) Salesian Missions joins UNAIDS, the United Nations’ AIDS organization, and many other organizations around the globe in highlighting World AIDS Day 2015 celebrated each year on December 1. The day is held to honor AIDS victims and focus on prevention and treatment issues surrounding HIV (human immunodeficiency virus) and AIDS (acquired immune deficiency syndrome).
This year’s theme is a continuation of “Getting to Zero” which has been an ongoing theme and focus of UNAIDS since 2011. In the last week of November, UNAIDS released a new report showing that countries are getting on the “Fast-Track to end AIDS by 2030” as part of the Sustainable Development Goals. The report notes that by adapting to a changing global environment and maximizing innovations, countries are seeing greater efficiencies and better results in treatment and prevention of the disease.
The report highlights that at the end of 2014, 36.9 million people were living with HIV and as of June 2015, 15.8 million people living with HIV were accessing antiretroviral therapy, up from 13.6 million in June 2014. This is a significant increase compared to 7.5 million people in 2010 and 2.2 million people in 2005. At the end of 2014, UNAIDS estimated that new HIV infections had fallen by 35 percent since the peak in 2000 and AIDS-related deaths had fallen by 42 percent since the 2004 peak.
“Every five years we have more than doubled the number of people on life-saving treatment,” said Michel Sidibé, executive director of UNAIDS in a recent press release about the new report. “We need to do it just one more time to break the AIDS epidemic and keep it from rebounding.”
In the report, UNAIDS urged countries to ‘break the AIDS epidemic’ by doubling the number of people receiving HIV treatment within the next five years. The organization highlighted the life-changing benefits of antiretroviral therapy that helps people with HIV live longer, healthier lives and has contributed to an increase in the global number of people living with HIV.
Salesian Missions, the U.S development arm of the Salesians of Don Bosco, has a long-standing commitment to prevention education, testing and access to treatment for those living with HIV/AIDS.
In South Africa, youth living on the streets are often faced with severe poverty, lack of education, abandonment, abuse and exploitation. Many have also been affected by HIV/AIDS as the country has been the hardest hit by the epidemic. To address these issues, the Salesian-run Life Choices organization has been providing health education, leadership classes, life skills training and HIV/AIDS services that have impacted more than 138,000 youth since its inception in 2005. Originally started with the support of the U.S. President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) grant funding, Life Choices has been able to expand over the years with the support of donors and corporate sponsors.
Life Choices programs are offered in schools and students in grades 4 through 12 participate in educational workshops and activities designed specifically for each age group. The programs benefit youth by employing a multipronged approach to HIV/AIDS prevention. This approach not only offers health education on HIV/AIDS and other sexually transmitted diseases, but also offers life skills training, parent/teacher/community support, recreational activities, sports, youth camps, counseling and job placement services.
Life Choices’ Health4Life program provides one-on-one services to youth in schools and communities. It offers group talks around reproductive health, one-on-one psychosocial support and HIV counseling and testing sessions. The program also helps to connect youth who test positive to the medical services for ongoing support and antiretroviral therapy they need. The services aim to promote physical, mental and social well-being among youth with a special focus on HIV prevention and intervention.
“Access to healthcare and education as well as supportive services help youth improve their quality of life,” says Sofia Neves, managing director of the Life Choices program. It is important for young people to have access to the information and support that enables them to make healthy life choices in a supportive atmosphere with trusting adults they can turn to for information about prevention, testing and treatment options for those affected by HIV/AIDS.”
In Cambodia, the Don Bosco Children Fund provides services and support for AIDS orphans and children affected by HIV/AIDS in Phnom Penh, the capital and largest city of Cambodia and surrounding areas. More than 840 youth are receiving education and health services as a part of the fund’s Project HIV/AIDS. Through Project HIV/AIDS, the Don Bosco Children Fund aims to provide holistic and proactive programs on primary healthcare and education, improve children’s health and welfare with antiretroviral therapy and encourage public awareness and community involvement.
Salesian missionaries educate more than 1 million youth in more than 5,300 primary and secondary schools and nearly 1,000 vocational, technical and agricultural schools. To date, more than 3 million youth have participated in Salesian programs operated by more than 30,000 Salesian missionaries in more than 130 countries around the globe. Salesian programs provide poor youth and their families access to education, workforce development, humanitarian relief, youth clubs, health services, feeding programs and more.
UNAIDS – World AIDS Day 2015