"Africa is, indeed, coming into fashion." - Horace Walpole (1774)

3.03.2006

what you can do about this mess

So it turns out that the doctor I interviewed on Tuesday night is apparently the person who actually coined the terms "HIV" and "AIDS" in San Francisco in the early 1980's. I can't stress enough how remarkable this guy is – his commitment to serving the people most neglected in the global AIDS epidemic is entirely driven by his belief that Christ calls us to help the poor and marginalized. His foundation is fantastic – they provide HIV/AIDS prevention, testing, treatment, and health care worker training among refugees and internally displaced persons in some of the world's darkest corners – with Haitian refugees in the Dominican Republic, with rape victims in the eastern Congo, and with Liberians who have been living as refugees in Ghana for fifteen years.

Friends often ask me for recommendations as to where to donate money to help in Africa and/or with the HIV/AIDS crisis. I am often hesitant to make concrete recommendations, because some organizations use a lot of their budget for overhead and fundraising. But this is one group that I have no qualms about and will definitely be donating to in the future. The doctor is the foundation's president, but he takes no salary from it. After seven years of working only on volunteer labor, they have just hired their first employee to manage their international programs, but she and the doctor share a stated intention of working themselves out of a job. Their focus is on helping already-competent health workers gain credibility and legitimacy so that they will be able to win grants and support from larger organizations.

So, if reading all this depressing stuff about the eastern Congo has you thinking about what you could do, I can't think of anything better than supporting Global Strategies, and/or the organization with which they partner here in Goma, DOCS.

DOCS, supported by Heal Africa, is a local NGO run by Congolese doctors that exists to serve people affected by war, rape, and the volcano here in Goma. DOCS runs a hospital for rape victims who require medical attention. A post-rape preventive course of anti-retroviral drugs and antibiotics to prevent HIV and other STD's takes 30 days to complete. Recovery from fistula surgery takes three months, and often victims require more than one surgery to repair the tears, so DOCS provides temporary housing for these women and girls for as long as they need to stay. These women and girls also need counseling and support for job training to help them have a future – they are often cast out of their homes by their husbands or are justifiably terrified to return to their homes and therefore need a way to support themselves and their children. DOCS provides all of these things, along with spiritual support and unconditional love in the name of Christ. At the moment, their youngest patient is three and their oldest is over eighty. They also have training programs for doctors, nurses, and community health workers, and support medical residents, all in order to train health professionals to work in rural areas in the eastern Congo. They do wonderful work and will not waste a penny in serving our sisters in Christ whose lives have been destroyed by this terrible war.

To give to Global Strategies, you can visit their website here. DOCS has a website and is supported in North America by Heal Africa. You can donate to their work here.

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