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August 26, 2010

Julia is a Project HOPE community health volunteer in a small community in Namibia. Julia spends her days counseling, educating and supporting the burgeoning numbers of households in her community now caring for orphans as a direct result of the AIDS epidemic in her country.

Julia has trained 10 caregivers to support and nurture the orphans now in their families. After the trainings, Julia follows up with caregivers by doing home visits. She monitors and supports the impoverished and older caregivers of orphans to ensure the orphans who are HIV positive receive their antiretroviral treatment according to the time schedule of the drugs. She has also encouraged some families to obtain birth certificates, a vital document that enables orphans to receive government services. Through her dedication two children have obtained them.

”Whenever I visit the families, I provide individual education on HIV/AIDS prevention and I also encourage each person in the family to participate in Voluntary Counseling and Testing (VCT). I also insist on accompanying families to the hospital when health issues are identified,” she said. “It is not a simple task to convince people to go for voluntary counseling and HIV testing, but I managed to successfully spread the message to eight caregivers to go for the testing.”

Sadly, out of the eight caregivers tested, four were HIV positive including a mother with her 5-year-old child. The mother, Selma, who is 32 years old, is a widow. Selma’s husband died three years ago. When Selma returned to her husband’ family for support, she and her child were chased away by the family. With Julia’s encouragement, Selma began to attend Project HOPE health education sessions to learn more information about health issues related to her HIV status and to learn about services and care issues for orphans and vulnerable children.

When Selma was interviewed, she had the following to say: “The health education and follow-up at my home was crucial to me. Because of that, I made the bold decision to go for a HIV test, which unfortunately revealed my worst fears. The doctor told me that my immune system and my child’s immune system was weakened, and that we should start taking antiretroviral medicine.”

Selma says she is now happy to know her status so that she can plan for herself and her child. She now wants to take better care of herself so that she can better care of her child. “I did not know that someone can live longer when they start taking antiretrovirals,” Selma said. “I am grateful to Julia and Project HOPE, because I am now facing this situation with support and continuous encouragement.” Selma also plans to join Julia in her home visitations, encouraging others to know their HIV status and plan for their future.

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