World AIDS Day

Today is World AIDS Day, and in honor of this day, we have pulled a blog from the archives - a crash course in HIV/AIDS: 


Just 10 days ago, April 7th, was World Health Day. In honor of that, I wanted to offer our readers a crash course in HIV/AIDS 101. Every day in my conversations, I realize that there are still many gaps in people’s knowledge about AIDS. But, don’t mistake me for an expert. Just a couple months ago, a friend of CARE for AIDS and HIV researcher at Emory, Evonne Woodson, came in to help our team brush up on our HIV/AIDS knowledge, and we learned a ton. If you are aware of these 5 aspects of HIV, you will know more than 99% of the world.

1.     Life expectancy with HIV/AIDS

Although HIV (human immunodeficiency virus) cannot be cured, it can be managed extremely well. Even people in extreme poverty can live long lives with proper diet, hygiene, and adherence to medication. In most countries, the life expectancy of those with HIV is equal to or approaching that of the general population. One of our clients said this, “If someone asked me if I wanted cancer or HIV, I would choose HIV.” She understands that she will have a full life despite her HIV.

2.     The state of the global crisis

Most people have lost all sense of urgency about HIV because they believe it is under control. While there has been a lot of progress, that couldn’t be further from the truth. In 2014, there were approximately 2 million new infections globally. In that same year, about 1.2 million people died of AIDS-related causes. This means that the number of people living with HIV is growing by nearly a million a year. These are people that, at some time, will need care: medical, emotional, and spiritual. The costs of caring for these people are increasing but the funds available are decreasing. In Kenya, there are 100,000 new infections annually and 58,000 deaths. We need to continue working hard to see both of these numbers decrease.

3.     Difference between HIV and AIDS

HIV is a virus that causes a condition called AIDS (acquired immune deficiency syndrome). CD4 count is a common measure of how compromised your immune system is.  The test measures the amount of T-cells in your blood, which are a type of white blood cells that help fight off infection. A healthy person without HIV may have a CD4 count anywhere from 500 to 1500 cells/mm3.  If a person with HIV has a CD4 count lower than 200 cell/mm3, they are diagnosed with AIDS. HIV is typically in a latent state for about 6-10 years before the symptoms of AIDS begin. At that point, without treatment, someone will live for about 3 more years.

4.     Types, strains, and subtypes

There are two types of HIV: HIV-1 and HIV-2. Within HIV-1, there are four different strains of the virus: Group M, N, O, and P. HIV-1 Group M is the strain that is responsible for the global epidemic. But it doesn’t stop there. There are at least 9 main subtypes under Group M (A, B, C, D, F, G, H, J, K). Then, on top of that, there are many more subtypes that are combinations of the ones above. They are called Circulating Recombinant Forms. This is one of the many factors that make this virus so difficult to stop. Although many of the HIV treatments have proven effective against multiple subtypes, it is important to note that about half the world has subtype C but most of the U.S. has subtype B. Therefore, a disproportionate amount of funding and research has gone into addressing subtype B.

5.     Treatment as Prevention (TASP)

 One of the newest schools of thought on how to address this global issue is something called treatment as prevention. This basically means that the best way to prevent the spread of HIV is to begin treatment as early as possible. In doing so, it will suppress the virus to such a low level that it will be very unlikely that someone would be able to transmit it to someone else. The World Health Organization has adopted this “test and treat” philosophy and recommended that anyone testing positive for HIV should be treated immediately. Opponents of this theory contend that this early treatment will be too costly and could create more drug-resistant strains of HIV. In Kenya, HIV-positive individuals qualify to receive treatment when their CD4 count drops below 350 cells/mm3.  TASP has been used extremely effectively to prevent the transmission of HIV from mother to child. Some studies have found a less than 1% chance of transmission when the mother is treated with antiretroviral medication during pregnancy, delivery, and breastfeeding.

I hope you feel a little more educated about HIV. It is important to remember that the medical intervention is not the only aspect, and CARE for AIDS is working hard to provide a holistic response.

What did you learn about HIV that you didn’t already know?

Sources: avert.org and aids.gov

Generosity: Why Give?

This morning we are sharing an excerpt from our free Generosity E-book. This excerpt is an interview with contributing author, Steve Graves. Enjoy! 


Many of the parables related to money in the New Testament are pretty dramatic (you cannot serve both God and money, a camel has a better chance of going through the eye of a needle than a rich man going to heaven, sell all your possessions and give to the poor). How can we reconcile these seemingly extreme lessons about wealth and giving that Jesus teaches?

Here's what we know- no single verse or passage of scripture contains God’s thinking on one thing. There is no single text that is the proof text to show us how God feels about the rich or the poor. The scriptures are pretty descriptive on how people handle their wealth, though. If I have more than I need, which almost everyone in this country has, the scriptures are clear—help others. As a believer I have to hold in tension the growth of my own personal lifestyle with the command of helping others. 

That being said, there is one parable that I like to point to as a good example of how the Lord views resources and generosity— the parable of the talents in Matthew 25:14-30.

What can we learn about how we relate to money and generosity in the parable of the talents?

There are four main takeaways that I love from this parable.

1.    All assets are distributed by the owner. As we see in verse 15 of this parable (Matthew 25:15), all of our assets, financial and non-financial, are owned by God. That doesn't mean that I didn't work hard for what I have, but it does mean that there is a divine allocation system that sits above our harried effort to accumulate more and more. We often don't like the assets we have been given, and we wish that we had other people’s lots. What we must realize is that, as the scripture says, “to one he gave five talents, to another two, to another one, to each according to his ability.” Once we can find comfort in the fact that our resources are from God and that they are exactly what we need, we can find freedom.

2.    We are to steward the assets. In this parable we clearly see that the owner of the assets returns to see how the servants have stewarded the talents he gave them. Similarly, we know that everything we have is under God’s ownership and our stewardship. This should inform what we do with out time, gifts, and finances.

3.    Stewardship assumes leverage. When the owner of the assets returns in verse 19 (Matthew 25:19) we see that he those servants who doubled their assets were rewarded with more to steward. Through this we can see that when God talks about stewardship, there in an inherent expectation that we leverage what we are stewarding to the glory of God.

4.    Leverage requires more risk not less risk. This of course is a basic principle—if we expect to leverage and multiply that which we have been given, we must engage risk. Of course this is not a call to risk-it-all, Vegas style, but a call to responsibly step out in faith. If we take what we are given and bury it like the one servant in the parable, our faith is not engaged and we are not offered the opportunity to trust God and grow.

Those are amazing insights into this passage. One last question- what advice would you give young professionals or young couples who want generosity to be engrained in their families?

I would say three things:

·      Start early and take baby steps. My son is in college and we have been helping him understand giving since he was little – its already imbedded in his system and it has been incredible for my wife and I to see him living out generosity on his own as he becomes an adult.

·      Make sure you are activating faith. If you aren’t activating faith, you shouldn't be giving. Slugging your way through sacrificial taxing to God is not the picture scriptures paint of generosity. If this is the emotion that grown in you when you think about giving, keep your money and go pray more!

·      Find causes that resonate with you, but at the same time, don't be completely self-serving in your causes. We can use my son for example. He tithes to his church, and also gives to his friends who are in the mission field. He may feel more connection with his friends, and may want to give to them as his entire tithe, but he also knows that he is the man he is today because he has been under the stewardship of his church. When you give, certainly give to causes that make you feel good, but also consider the larger impact of your gifts and diversify those giving assets!


To download the full Generosity E-book, sign up for our newsletter on the CARE for AIDS website. 

START TO FINISH

In Awe. This would be the way I would describe my reaction to my recent experience of attending a center launch in Kenya. You see, many of the new clients who showed up to the program launch didn’t know what to expect. Most had been cast out from their families and their communities and were now turning to the church for hope. This was their first step toward hope for a future and the look on their faces will be forever one of my favorite memories from my trip.

We attended the center launch in the community of Sinai, most famous for a tragic community wide fire caused by an oil spill in 2011. When I learned this was on our itinerary, I was so excited and couldn’t wait to meet our clients on their first day of the program. With African worship music filling the air, the clients filed through the open doors into the sanctuary. Some came alone and some came in groups, but regardless of how they arrived our staff welcomed them with so much love. Although the program was held in the client’s native tongue, I was able to follow along merely by witnessing the reactions from the audience. I also had the joy of holding one of the new client’s infants during the session and I could see the surprise and disbelief in her eyes when I offered to help. This is when it became a reality for me - these people have been doing life alone, without the love of their families, communities, and many without the love of their heavenly father.

It was such a privilege to see the CARE for AIDS team interact with these new clients and begin to give them their dignity back.  The hope and joy that filled their eyes by the end of the day was so encouraging. The loving spirit of Jesus and unwavering support of the CARE for AIDS staff was so beautifully shown during this time together. I was so inspired by the staff and so thankful that they work every day to be the Lord’s hands and feet for our clients from start to finish by sharing the gospel, walking beside, and empowering them to live longer and stronger to raise their children. 

The CARE for AIDS staff, partner churches, and these communities walk beside these HIV+ parents from launch to graduation just as Jesus walks with us from start to finish. Frederick Buchner writes, “The place God calls us to is the place where your deep gladness and the world’s deep hunger meet.” I believe this to be true and I am thankful that my deepest gladness is in seeing the first glimpse of hope in these parents who are the most marginalized in this society - parents living with HIV.  

Thank You!!

Thank you so much to everyone who was able to come out to the Hunger Project this past weekend! Nearly 600 volunteers came together to package nutritious meals for our clients in Kenya- 336,000 meals to be exact! Enjoy some photos from the weekend below and stay tuned for a recap video in the coming weeks. 

Vision

This morning's post is from CARE for AIDS Monitoring and Evaluation Coordinator, Patrick Wanyeki. 

George is 42 years old. He led a normal life until one day in 2013 when he returned home from a voluntary counseling center with his HIV status. He disclosed his status to his wife and confronted her because he believed it was her that gave it to him. The next day his wife left him never to be seen again. That was the beginning of George's nightmare.

A few weeks later he started ailing and it was then that he was diagnosed with meningitis. He was in a coma for three months, and when he woke from the coma, he was blind. He was discharged to go and die at home... But! God had other good plans for him.  

Word got to him about one of our CARE for AIDS centers near his home. For weeks He wished that someone would help him get the the center. Finally, someone from his church took him to the center and from then on he was enrolled into the 9-month CFA program in January 2016. Today, George has found a new family at CFA. The center staff there have helped him get access to the government fund for persons living with disabilities. George is set graduate from our CFA center on 2nd November 2016.


George has no sight but he has a vision. God led him to CFA so that we can be his eyes and encourager. To God be the glory.