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November 06 Tearfund

The Church has a key role in halting the spread of HIV and Aids, helping give youngsters like Alinafe a future … Ten years ago in a poverty-stricken village in Malawi, battered by floods, droughts and food crises, a woman gives birth to a daughter. She celebrates – naming her Alinafe, meaning God with us.

Today, Esther knows there is a risk that she may have transmitted HIV to her child. Alinafe herself remains unaware of the danger. She doesn’t know why her mother is sick sometimes. In her village, HIV is surrounded by stigma.

“I don’t want to tell her that I have HIV,” says Esther. “When I’m ill, I tell her I might not get better. But it makes her so sad.”

Esther’s hope is that she will live long enough to see Alinafe get married. But although it is perfectly possible to live for decades with HIV, it is unlikely that Esther will get that chance. Her poverty means she cannot afford to eat meat and vegetables. And she depends on a varied diet to make her course of medicines effective.

Esther trusts her life to God’s hands, and has faith that he will look after her daughter too. She also looks to the support from Tearfund in the battle against HIV. “The Church should play a role in stopping HIV,” says Esther. “Christians should care for people and pray.”

Tearfund is calling the Church across the world to step up and stop HIV. Churches throughout the developing world have made a good start in the fight to tackle an illness that has claimed more than 20 million lives in the last 25 years. And every day another 14,000 people are infected with HIV, most of them in countries already crippled by poverty.

Tearfund’s plan to stop the spread of HIV includes helping women get access to medicines and information that will prevent their babies being born with HIV.

A few simple measures can prevent a mother transmitting HIV to her child. Two doses of medicine – one for the mother before labour and one for the baby after birth – can dramatically reduce the chances of HIV passing through the blood.

That is the reason why babies are rarely born with HIV in the UK, or in the other rich countries of the world. But in poor countries, one baby is born with HIV every minute of every day.

Through its partner agencies Tearfund is also caring for children whose parents have already died from AIDS – and supporting them as they raise siblings.

Across the AIDS belt of East and Southern Africa there are some 12 million orphans. Children vastly outnumber adults in many African villages and there is an increasing number of child-headed households. The region has more than a quarter of a million church congregations – Kenya alone has 80,000. We can all do the maths. If each cared for 20 orphans, all the country’s 1.6 million orphans would be supported.

It can sound like an impossible challenge for Tearfund, for the Church – and all those who would work to stop and reverse this pandemic. HIV is out of control, constantly finding new communities to infect. It hides in the stigma and discrimination as it destroys families and entire communities.

But by working together, Tearfund believes that churches across the world have a crucial role to play.

Money can’t buy miracles – we know that. But it can buy clinics. It can buy education, orphan care and training for the volunteers to carry out testing and counselling. And a few simple measures can prevent a mother passing HIV to her child.

Giving £7 a month to Tearfund’s Work a Miracle appeal could give a child the chance of an HIV-free start in life, by testing mothers and providing counselling and crucial information. A single gift can also help make a huge difference to tackling HIV and AIDS.

And prayer will too. You can support the appeal by praying for people affected by AIDS and poverty. Visit www.tearfund.org/miracle

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