Africa (MNN) — The worldwide HIV/AIDS epidemic does not seem to be slowing down. Instead, it is ravaging the poorest countries of Sub-Saharan Africa.
"I think many people assume that AIDS is going away and getting better," says Emily Voorhies with Global Action. "But actually there are about 5 million new cases of AIDS diagnosed every year,"
Global Action is working with victims of HIV/AIDS in four African countries: Kenya, Burundi, Rwanda and Ethiopia. Voorhies says since the late 90s, they've noticed a trend in the victims with whom they came into contact. "Increasingly, AIDS was becoming a girls' and women's disease."
Due to the stigma that goes along with AIDS in these countries, many women who are diagnosed with HIV/AIDS lose their jobs along with their dignity. Women in these societies are also expected to take care of orphans. Consequently, many women who have contracted AIDS are also taking care of eight to ten AIDS orphans with almost no means to support themselves.
Recognizing the needs of so many women in similar hopeless situations, Global Action recently began several holistic micro-enterprise programs within these four countries and is starting another in the Ivory Coast. These programs provide skills training in trades like sewing or jewelry and candle making, while also providing food for the women and their children.
Throughout the program, women meet in groups of 20-30, interacting with and relating to each other as they learn. At the end of the 10-month program, Global Action helps their students to create businesses that will help them to regain dignity through self-sufficiency.
Beyond learning life skills, however, the women served are taught eternal life skills. They work through Bible studies and pray in their small groups, discussing the hope they are able to find in Christ. In general, the women have been very receptive to the Gospel.
"When you're suffering from a terminal disease like AIDS, you begin to think of eternal things," says Voorhies. "So I think many are at a point in their lives where they're evaluating what their future will be. I think they're very open to the Gospel, and I think they're very open to God's message of love and hope, because many of them are in very hopeless circumstances on this earth."
Pray that God would continue to transform the lives of these women. Pray also for those fighting on the frontlines to prevent AIDS and counteract the stigma that goes along with it.
If you would like to help Global Action in their fight to bring life to AIDS victims in these four countries, visit global-act.org.