This week, Wednesday, Dec. 1 marks the 22nd annual World AIDS Day. Since 1988, it has become one of the most recognized international health days and provides a key opportunity each year to raise awareness, remember those who have been victims of AIDS, and celebrate progress in the fight against this devastating epidemic.
We all know that HIV/AIDS causes incredible pain and strife around the world. In 2009, 1.8 million people died from AIDS, while 33.3 million were living with AIDS and 2.6 million became infected. More than 68% of all people living with AIDS are in sub-Saharan Africa.
However, despite these difficult statistics, there is good news. Access to services for preventing mother-to-child transmission of HIV led to a 24% decrease in mother-to-child transmission in 2009. AIDS-related deaths fell from their peak of 2.1 million in 2004, to 1.8 million in the last year. The number of people receiving HIV antiretroviral therapy increased by 30% in 2009.
These statistics give hope, but the true hope is found in stories like those of Américo Silva Durão, a client ofOpportunity Bank of Mozambique. Américo sells a wide variety of blankets, sheets, plastic containers, tea leaves and yarn, earning him income so that he is confident that he can support his family.
It hasn’t always been this way. Before January 2009, Américo was struggling to make ends meet when he took in a boy and a girl who had lost their parents to AIDS. This made providing for his family even more difficult, and they barely got by on the money he earned at his stand in the local marketplace.
Despite the difficulty, Américo persevered and in January 2009, he joined Opportunity, hoping to improve his business, his life, and the well-being of his family. His first loan of $800 helped him diversify his stock and expand his business. Using his increased profits he was able to send the orphans he cares for to school, feed his family more nutritious food, and pay their medical costs.
Today Américo is consistently making loan repayments on time to Opportunity Mozambique. The money he earns at at his stall provides sufficient income so that he’s able to provide comfort and hope to his family and the two AIDS orphans who are now a part of his family. Américo looks forward to receiving a second loan from Opportunity so that he can continue the transformational work he has already begun.
Opportunity celebrates people like Américo, who show compassion, kindness and support to those affected by HIV/AIDS. The contributions of people like Américo around the world are essential to fight the social and economic devastation of AIDS.
-Written by Eric Walcott, Intern, Resource Development