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In 1997 I was parish priest in one of the poorest suburbs of Lima, when I received a phone call to go to the local barrio clinic where two brothers had died of AIDS in the same week. At that stage I knew nothing about HIV/AIDS. It was a taboo subject in the shanty where the people only spoke about it in whispers. Sí, da Vida was founded by a group of affected people, friends and relatives of people who had died, who met with community leaders and a group of People Living With HIV and Aids (PLWHA), to consider what we could do as Christians in the face of the crisis that we saw unfolding.
The backbone of our project is the Positive Self-Management Program, which is an HIV specific version of the Chronic Disease Self-Management Program licensed and accredited by the University of Stanford, Stanford, California. The program encourages PLWHA to build personal strategies to support their general health and wellbeing. The program also helps PLWHA to develop and improve social networks among PLWHA and enable them to provide informed support to others as well as strengthen coordination and referral processes among service providers.
Since we started in 2006, we have provided 70 programs at 20 different sites in the poorer sectors of Lima and Callao. These have had an attendance of 1,080 participants between PLWHA, people affected by HIV and healthcare professionals. From those who have completed the program, we have trained 72 people as instructors of the program. Of those who have been trained, 40 have successfully replicated the program and have been approved as tutors with the remainder acting as volunteers in the other tasks undertaken by the Sí, da Vida Center.
The activities of the Sí, da Vida Center include the following:
• Recruitment of participants, with the help of the tutors already trained, from Support Groups, hospitals and other HIV organizations in Lima and Callao to participate in the Positive Self-Management Program (PSMP)
• Carry out Positive Self-Management Program (PSMP) in Lima and Callao (the port-city for Lima) for people living with HIV/AIDS.
• Evaluate these programs with the participants and adapt the program to the social reality of Lima and Callao.
• Complete prevention and awareness-raising campaigns on HIV/AIDS.
• Provide tutor training programs each year in the Positive Self-Management Program (PSMP) for people who have already participated in the program along with health professionals who work in the field and suitable volunteers.
• Educate Master Trainers and have them accredited by Stanford University.
• Carry out and increase the number of courses in Human Dignity, Human Rights,
Human Development and Self-esteem and to provide advocacy training for the participants.
I see men and women who live with HIV/AIDS as the present day lepers. Our job is to help them move from exclusion to inclusion, as did Jesus of Nazareth when he acted to help the lepers of His day belong once again to society. I would like all to feel welcome at the table of the banquet of the Kingdom of God.
Won’t you help Fr. Cathal help the people living with HIV/AIDS in Peru? Your donation will be put to good use by Sí, da Vida for the education and prevention of one of the world’s most devastating diseases.
As always, you will be remembered in our Masses and prayers. Thank you for your generous donation and your assistance in building the Kingdom, the Kingdom where all are welcome.