Africa (MNN) — Five years after United States President George W. Bush vowed to "turn the tide against AIDS" in Africa, he's traveling across a continent to see how the fund has impacted Africa. $15 billion has been spent under the Bush initiative called PEPFAR, the President's Emergency Program for AIDS Relief. The money has extended the lives of thousands of people. The additional funding has aided Christian organizations who are fighting the HIV/AIDS pandemic–organizations like Compassion International.
Amy Metzger is Compassion International's International Health Program Specialist. She says President Bush has helped HIV/AIDS outreach. "The President's Emergency Fund for AIDS Relief has been expanding over the last few years, and he's just looking to expand it further. And some of the children in our program are benefitting because therapy is being provided for free because of his initiative."
In Africa alone, 2.2 million children under the age of 15 are infected with HIV. Overall, 22.5 million are infected.
Metzger says Compassions HIV/AIDS work is all encompassing. "We have the whole treatment side of it where caregivers, children and siblings get treatment if needed. We have the whole prevention side of it which teaches kids, starting at a fairly young age, what HIV/AIDS is. And, [we have] the program that supports the orphaned and vulnerable children."
The PEPFAR funding is actually going directly to hospitals and medical clinics, which frees up Compassion funding to help in other areas. Metzger describes that help. "Right now we have over 15,000 registered children getting therapy. Most of that's free, but there are so many other things in that package that they get. They get the nutritional support, the testing which can be very expensive, [and] all the support of the social workers."
Since the funding goes directly to the hospitals, Metzger says it "doesn't affect our ability to share with people the Gospel when they need support, [and] when they need to hear the Gospel, we can share that freely." She says many are hungry for that.
Metzger says more financial help is needed from everyone. She says current child sponsors are being asked to "take on an extra $8 a month to help our AIDS initiative. And other people are just free to call us or go to our Web site to look for the AIDS initiative, find out more about it, and give if they're able."
She's asking Christians to pray for the initiative. She says focusing on the children is what will help change the culture. As these young people and their families turn to Christ, true change will take place.