Community Health and HIV
The Salvation Army has been a vital member in the fight against HIV and AIDS since the early 1980s. Today, the Salvation Army World Service Office (SAWSO) provides broad, effective support for people living with HIV and their families. SAWSO also support innovative programs that focus on the prevention of new cases.
In the small Zambian town of Kapiri Mposhi, a crowd gathers to watch a performance by a group of young strangers. The drama tells the story of a husband who has an affair; and of his wife, who also has an affair in retaliation. Then, the pair is found to be HIV-positive and the couple realizes that they can’t be sure who acquired the infection first.
The message that the performing youth troupe hopes to put across to their peers is that remaining faithful and abstaining from having multiple concurrent partners, decreases the risk of acquiring HIV.
During the performance, Pastor Kasalwe Cornelius Timothy from the Gospel Mission Church in Pamodzi, Ndola talked to members of the audience, encouraging them to go for HIV-related services at a health facility including counseling and testing, prevention of mother-to-child transmission, and male circumcision.
The youth performance is also a good dramatization of the shift in the approach of The Salvation Army in working to prevent HIV from focusing on pain management and spiritual comfort for people already in advanced stages of the disease, to providing those same services, and also vigorously promote screening and early detection, ensuring they have access to, and properly take, anti-retroviral medications and providing counseling so they can live long, productive and healthy lives.
And this approach is working.
According to the latest United Nations annual report, the global rate of HIV infection and the number of AIDS-related deaths have been dramatically reduced, thanks to expanding access to treatment. By the end of 2012, 9.7 million people in developing countries had access to AIDS drugs, an increase of nearly 20 percent in a year. The report also said that since 2001 there has been a 52 percent drop in annual new HIV infections among children and a 33 percent reduction in newly infected adults and children combined.
“What the Lord has put upon my heart is not only to preach the Word of God, but also to meet the social needs of the people, such as health, helping them reach out and access health facilities,” Pastor Timothy said.
By supporting community-level outreach activities through trained local faith-based leaders the way is paved for sustainable change and the lifelong victory of hope.