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Community Begins with a Woman
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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7 Things to Know about PEPFAR on World AIDS Day
Today marks World AIDS Day: a day to honor those lost, celebrate the global progress made in the fight against AIDS, and commit to put an end to the disease. In 2003, at the signing ceremony for the legislation that enacted the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR), President George W. Bush said, “We believe in the value and dignity of every human life. In the face of preventable death and suffering, we have a moral duty to act, and we are acting.” Since then, PEPFAR has delivered life-saving antiretroviral treatment (ART) to 11.5 million people, and nearly 2 million babies have been born HIV-free with PEPFAR support. PEPFAR’s success contributes to a coordinated global effort to end AIDS. UNAIDS reports that since 2000, 18.2 million people have access to treatment for HIV, new infections of HIV have decreased by over 1 million infections, and AIDS-related deaths have decreased by 1.4 million. There is real hope for endin