Friday, March 18, 2005

Christian AIDS Network

One of the most encouraging things I saw on my trip was a new ministry by my friends at Jinja Church, the Christian AIDS Network. It is a direct attempt at dealing with a devastating disease affecting so many Ugandans.

Oliver, Phillip, Charles, Augustine, Michael and Joseph are just a few of my Ugandan friends who I know have died of AIDS in the past couple of years. There are many more who have died and there will be many more who will soon die of this disease. Their orphaned hildren are left behind often in an aunt or uncle's home.

CAN is run by a couple of volunteers from church who don't really have any great qualifications for AIDS counseling except that they have the love of Christ in them. Alice is one of the volunteers with a huge heart. Alice will accompany anyone willing to the AIDS testing center to sit with them as they learn of their fate. If they are not HIV positive she will advise them on how to prevent getting this disease, pray with them and will invite them to church. If they are HIV positive, it is the beginning of a loving relationship that the HIV positive patient often will not receive anywhere else.

Alice returns to the church with these unfortunate individuals and begins advising them on how to manage their condition. She gives them advice on how to receive medicine as cheaply as possible which is unfortunately not cheap enough for most people (although there is plenty of supply if profit hungry pharmaceutical companies and their countries are willing to help out more.) Alice is there for the individual if they have any questions and need any advice.

Most importantly, though, Alice is simply their Christian friend when many others will treat the AIDS patient as an outcast. Alice introduces them to other AIDS patients in a weekly support group. They share their concerns, eat meals together, and make crafts together. These crafts are sold and the proceeds go to help this support group continue meeting in the future. They hope to someday make enough to begin providing for many of their own orphans of the future. Alice and her friends will then sit at AIDS patients' bedsides and hold them as they die.

Christian AIDS Network is providing the same kind of love to Ugandan AIDS patients of today as Jesus showed love to lepers of his day. I am proud of my Ugandan friends and hope that there is some way I can help them to increase their resources for such an incredible ministry.


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