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Community Begins with a Woman

Article by Katie Bernet July 9, 2013 //   4 minute read

I have always wanted to be just like my mother. At every stage in my life I have looked to her for what to do, where to go and how to act. After visiting an orphanage outside of Livingstone, Zambia I imagined what my life would be like without her. I never would have gone to the doctor as a kid because I was too scared of needles. My collection of inside jokes, memories and advice would be severely lacking and most importantly, I would be without my role model, friend and hero.

Many children in Zambia are not so fortunate.  There are more than one million orphans in Zambia, 78 percent of whom have become orphans because  their parents died of AIDS.  But many fewer are being orphaned today, thanks to the U.S. President’s Emergency Plan For AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) created by George W. Bush just a decade ago.  By increasing access to life-sustaining medications and reducing risk for infection, millions of people – many of them someone’s mother – are alive today. 

Unfortunately, women with HIV are four to five times more likely to get cervical cancer.  As a result many HIV positive women whose lives are sustained by HIV medications are now increasingly dying of cervical cancer, caused by infection from the HPV virus. 

Partnerships between governments and organizations, like the George W. Bush Institute and its partners through Pink Ribbon Red Ribbon, help to prevent deaths from cervical cancer.  For the past week, I have been among the volunteers supporting the Zambian Government and the George W. Bush Institute by helping to renovate a clinic in Livingstone called Mosi-Oa-Tunya that will screen women for cervical cancer so that they can learn if they have early stages of the disease and if so, get treated.  

A woman saved from cervical cancer may help save the lives of many children as well.  Their children can grow up with rolemodels and will learned to take care of their own health. They will have someone to hold them when they’re sick, encourage them to attend school and love them.

Their daughters will learn that regular screening for cervical cancer is necessary for good health. They can grow to be healthy members of their community and someday support their own children, who will support their children, and so on. The health of a community begins with a woman’s journey to a clinic like Mosi-Oa-Tunya.

I would not be who I am without my mother.  Every child deserves a mother. With partnerships like Pink Ribbon Red Ribbon, organizations like the George W. Bush Institute and clinics like Mosi-Oa-Tunya, more women will be alive to care for their children, their community and nation.

Katie Bernet is a student at Southern Methodist University and is part of a small volunteer delegation selected to begin renovations on a cervical cancer clinic in Livingstone, Zambia.

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