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“Get up! Pick up your mat and walk.” (Jn 5:8)

The global financial crisis, donor fatigue and the reallocation of funds to other priority areas like global warming are some of the reasons why international AIDS funding is being cut. Faced with this reality, UNAIDS has underscored the need to “invest smartly” today to “curtail the need to spend more –forever”.

At AJAN, we believe that one way of investing smartly is to create opportunities for income-generation for people with HIV and those caring for them. HIV makes poor families poorer still, especially if the breadwinner is infected. Productivity and the possibility to work can be severely diminished by ill health, and earnings or savings are often drained by the steep costs of medical care, nutritious food and other expenses that living with HIV requires. On the other hand, when people with HIV have all the medication, food and support they need, they are well able and eager to work and to look after their families.

The suggestion to help them earn a living comes from people with HIV themselves. Learning skills, receiving a small loan, joining a cooperative, setting up a market stall, go a long way in giving them autonomy, to meet, as much as possible, their own needs of medication and nutrition and perhaps also sponsor their children’s education.

Many of our Jesuit projects across Africa run income-generating activities (IGAs). The Service Yezu Mwiza offers micro-credit and support for farming and other trades to families in the hills around Bujumbura in Burundi. The Uzima programme of St Joseph the Worker Parish in Kangemi, a poor urban suburb of Nairobi in Kenya, has several IGAs including poultry farming, bead-making and tie-and-dye, with micro-credit groups and training workshops.

The home-based care (HBC) programme of Chikuni Parish, in Zambia’s Southern Province, has a tailoring project, bakery, shop and restaurant. As one client put it: “The project gives me love, hope and a job!” Not only: Chikuni supports caregivers, predominantly women, who struggle to make ends meet because their heavy responsibility of caring takes up most of their time and energy. The tailoring project, for example, is for eight caregivers, whose products sell successfully as far as Australia.

To empower poor people with HIV is to tell them: “Pick up your mat and walk” (Jn 5:8) whereas keeping them on a financial drip is to leave them on the stretcher indefinitely. Today, help people to “pick up at their mat and walk”, by giving a donation to AJAN that will go directly to a Jesuit income-generating project for people with HIV in Africa. You may either donate online or contact Fr Paterne Mombé SJ, the Coordinator of AJAN, at pmombe@jesuitaids.net

Thank you for your support!

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