This World AIDS Day, we celebrate the work that’s been done to see so much progress in the story of HIV and AIDS around the world. We are encouraged by power of social advocates, doctors, scientists, religious leaders, community leaders, volunteers and neighbors.
We stay the commitment and stand together with the United Nations in #gettingtozero with no new infections, no more discrimination and no more AIDS-related deaths. We are close but we are still not there.
This week, we offer a liturgy and an observation of the Advent Calendar developed by AIDS researchers, survivors, doctors and advocates around the world. Thanks to the Ecumenical Advocacy Alliance, we’ll follow the same meditations shared by others keeping the commitment all over the globe.
Today, we offer the story of Abibou, beneficiary of HOPE for AIDS Benin, and a meditation to follow. Let’s gather a virtual vigil by uploading a great photo of a candle to our HOPE for AIDS Facebook page, Twitter (@hope4aids, #gettingtozero) and Instagram (HOPE for AIDS, #gettingtozero).
We first met Abibou when he was five years old. His mother was hospitalized at the Bembereke Hospital, just beside the Alafia clinic. During her hospitalization, she tested positive for HIV and died several days later. We tested Abibou at the same time and found that he too was HIV positive. We feared that if Abibou returned to his village that we may not see him again. It was vital that he start ARV therapy and have regular check-ups at the clinic.
His father was not at all interested in cooperating with Abibou’s health needs. Thankfully, he allowed Abibou to live with his grandmother who cared deeply for him. Very poor and living quite a distance away, the Alafia clinic helped them with transportation costs to come for Abibou’s appointments. They were given monthly staples of rice and oil plus some soap, milk, and sardines. When Abibou started school, he was also provided with school supplies. Abibou started on ARV therapy during this time and was doing well on treatment.
When Abibou was nine, his father decided that he would come to live with him. The Alafia staff began to do home visits to ensure that he was receiving his ARV therapy. It became evident that Abibou was being physically abused by his father and his health began to decline. Eventally Abibou tried to run away and was severely beaten or cut multiple times with a knife at his father’s hand. The grandmother was beside herself when she came to the clinic and asked our supervisor, Boniface, for help.
After much prayer from the Alafia team, Boniface went to visit Abibou’s father. At first he was met with coldness and defensiveness. Not to be discouraged, Boniface continued to spend time with the father, talking with him in a kind and non-judgemental way. After numerous visits, our prayers were answered and the father agreed to let Abibou move back with his grandmother. We were so glad.
Abibou has thrived under his grandmother’s care and comes regularly for his clinical appointments. He is doing well and loves school.
One of our goals at HOPE for AIDS Benin is to keep families together and support them to give their children and loved ones, living with HIV, the best holistic care possible.
-Orginally written by Miriam Stirling, HOPE for AIDS Benin