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Wednesday
Jul012009

A Visit to AHOPE

Next time you think you're somehow behind the eight ball, try this: close your eyes and image starting life -- from birth -- with HIV. That's exactly what the children at AHOPE, and their caregivers and future adoptive families must contend with every day.

HIV is a devilishly efficient killer in Ethiopia and a crippling social problem with which the country must contend. One of the most visible results of the HIV/AIDs epidemic in Ethiopia is the number of youth orphaned every year from dead or dying parents. Organizations close to the issue now place the number of orphaned youth in Ethiopia at between 5 and 6 million. A large minority of these orphans are unwitting victims of HIV/AIDs.

An unfortunate few of those orphans are direct victims of their mother's disease as well, contracting AIDs as a matter of birth. The newborns of AIDs moms cannot be diagnosed definitively until about 6 months as an otherwise healthy baby may have anti-bodies from their mother in their blood stream. After 6 months, however, the diagnosis becomes clear and for many it is unfortunate: they have their parents' HIV.

Between the stigma of HIV and the practical realities of specific care requirements, these children, although placed in orphanages, have very few options. That's why AHOPE exists: to give these kids an organization dedicated to their care and increasing the odds that they will find a good home and go on to lead normal, productive lives.

AHOPE for Children is a non-profit organization whose mission is to serve orphans infected with HIV. In Addis Ababa, AHOPE's two pleasant, well-staffed Children's Homes care exclusively for orphans who are HIV+ and have no extended family to care for them. Many of these children are now finding their forever families through adoption.

AHOPE has also started a Community Outreach Program which educates the public about the issue of HIV-infected infants and works to enable orphaned children to remain within their extended families and culture, while receiving medical care, education, food, and other services.

We had the opportunity to visit one of AHOPE's centers and were greatly moved.  I don't think I have to beat the drum very hard to get the point across.  The people who are working there and the children they assist deserve your thoughts and prayers.

AHOPE is in need of continuing financial support, as well as donations of goods and medicines.  If you have the opportunity, please consider sponsoring an AHOPE child or including AHOPE in your charitable giving.  And, if you plan to visit Ethiopia and are flying to Bole, consider packing up a duffle bag of needed supplies and dropping it off during your travels.

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