Thursday, June 14, 2007

Rahel's Story: Living With Hope in Tanzania

As most of you are aware, in January, I had the opportunity to travel with CRS to Tanzania. It was truly a life-changing experience and I will always be grateful.

While there, our delegation had the opportunity to view first-hand the many projects CRS is engaged in to provide support and development assistance particularly in the areas of agriculture and health. With the prevalence rate HIV/AIDS of 8-12%, it is major health crisis in Tanzania and throughout Africa. However, there is cause for hope...with the recent introduction of anti-retroviral therapy (ART), many with HIV/AIDS are finding hope - in fact, they call this "the Lazarus effect"...those who were in fact weeks from death are able to rise from their beds and become again members of the community.

One such person we met was Rahel (see photo on the right). Rahel told us that she was no longer living with AIDS, but living with hope. She is very grateful for the help she is receiving. However, through Rahel and many others we met, we able to discover that for many receiving ART, nutrition is an issue. Funds to support ART comes from the President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR). These funds are meant to be used for drugs and cannot be used for food except in particular circumstances. This is a problem as for the treatment to be effective, a patient must eat five, small, nutritious meals a day. I personally talked to one mother who said she could only provide one meal a day for her young daughter suffering from AIDS and TB.

Our delegation decided that we needed to do something about this. While in Washington in February for the Catholic Social Ministry Gathering, we lobbied our legislators on behalf of Rahel and all those who spoke to us. We also discussed this with the CRS staff in Tanzania. As a result, CRS has created a special project which they hope will be funded by private contributions. The name is Rahel's Response or Food for People Living with HIV and AIDS in Tanzania.

To learn more about Rahel's Response and for the opportunity to help in this effort click here.


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