Annemarie Boks from the Netherlands serves in Adi, Congo working with the local church to support those living with Aids.
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The Aids Awareness Programme started in 1999 when CECA(Communauté Evangélique au Centre de l’Afrique) leaders realised that Aids was prevalent in the church. Since then the programme has developed through sensitisation programmes, development of teaching materials, work with church leaders and the involvement of medical personnel. Now, medical aspects will be integrated into the medical ministry of CECA (for example, testing for HIV and the treatment of people living with HIV) and home based care, and care for orphans, will be handed over to the local churches.
“…when teaching about HIV & Aids the love of God was declared…”
A community of acceptance
Annemarie Boks started working with the programme in 2002 when it was facing multiple problems, lack of funding being one of them. However God was faithful and between 2007-2010 the programme made huge leaps forward: staff members organised ‘Support and Action Groups’ in local churches where volunteers were taught how to care for people living with HIV and how to teach about HIV and Aids. People living with HIV encouraged each other in support groups, lessons about HIV were broadcast over the local radio, given through films, at teaching sessions in the community, in schools and in churches. Awareness about HIV grew and stigma lessened. Powerfully, when teaching about HIV and Aids the love of God was declared and a community of acceptance and of care grew in response.
In January 2014 the hospital in Adi started giving antiretroviral drug (ARV) treatment to people living with HIV, following a push by the Aids Awareness Programme that meant nationally accredited training. Now 41 people receive ARV at Adi hospital and more are examined and seen regularly.
Meet Margaret Badaru
Margaret Badaru is HIV positive and works alongside Annemarie educating and teaching in the Aids Awareness Programme. She shares her story:
Seen as living dead
I was born in a polygamous family, and have four sisters and two brothers; two have died. In 2003 I started studying at the Nursing School in Adi, but my health deteriorated. It was I who asked for an HIV test, but the result came back negative twice. Because I kept being sick, one of my sisters, who lived in Arua (Uganda) suggested I went there to do the test. It turned out to be positive. Although it was I who wanted the test, it was difficult to accept the result and to have to start taking antiretrovirals (ARV). I was only 23 years old, and there was still a lot of stigma surrounding HIV. Being infected with HIV meant to be ‘living dead’ already. Even my brothers and sisters isolated me. In the end I moved back in with my mother in Adi. She received me with love and joy, but, although living only 30 metres from the church, I was isolated and stayed at home the whole time.
“Being infected with HIV meant to be ‘living dead’ already.”
A channel of hope
Eventually I joined a support group for people living with Aids and decided try and make a difference for others in my situation. I finished my studies in ‘Information, Education and Communication’ at ISPASC (Superior Pan African Institute of Community Health) in 2012. This wasn’t easy; my family tried to discourage my mother from letting me study, saying that the money could better be kept for my funeral. I also had to go to Arua for my ARV, a long way away. When working on my dissertation I stopped taking ARV for four months. I was anxious a lot during that time, because I was struggling to pay the school fees. I expected to have to redo the year, but God provided. My health deteriorated though and during the graduation celebration I became sick and was hospitalised.
Now my health is slowly improving. I live with my mother in Adi and am accepted in the community. I participate in church activities and am working with Annemarie in the Aids Awareness Programme. We prepare workshops for church leaders and teach at church conferences. I am eager to do more training to enable me to be a channel of hope and to teach church leaders as well.