For some Seventh-day Adventist-run organizations, the December 1 observance of World AIDS Day lasts all year long.
Eugenia and Oscar Giordano, assistant and executive directors for Adventist AIDS International Ministry (AAIM), helped establish the organization in 2003. The couple, both medical doctors, said they felt a need to address the lack of understanding of and support for individuals infected with HIV/AIDS.
"Six years ago, our churches in Africa were in almost complete denial on issues about HIV and AIDS," Oscar Giordano said. "Today, there is no more silence ... in a great number of our churches in Africa. The more people know about HIV/AIDS, the more they talk and commit themselves for action, the less the virus will continue to spread."
AAIM covers the East-Central and Southern Africa/Indian Ocean regions of the continent. The organization recently expanded to include the West-Central area of Africa, providing HIV/AIDS sensitivity training for local church leadership. The regional church leadership is planning to provide the same training for 11 other countries in the West-Central area, Giordano said.
"According to the data available from church surveys and WHO HIV/AIDS related death rates, we estimate that approximately 500 to 600 Adventist church members are dying from AIDS every month in Africa," Giordano said.
In 2009, AAIM started an AIDS prevention campaign that will cover most of the continent by 2010, Giordano said.
"The main goal is to make sure that each of the Adventist churches has reliable information on HIV and AIDS as a mean of prevention, and that all of our church members have access to it."
AAIM also provides sewing machines and materials to HIV/AIDS infected individuals as a means of income and sets up support groups to check on infected individuals in their communities, Giordano said. The support groups, sometimes including doctors, assess the situations and make sure the individuals are properly following their treatment procedures, he said.
The Adventist Development and Relief Agency (ADRA), the humanitarian arm of the Seventh-day Adventist Church, also provides support and awareness for individuals affected by HIV/AIDS.
"Around the world, ADRA offers HIV preventative education programs, HIV/AIDS testing, and counseling services to reduce the impact of AIDS on individuals and families," said Charles Sandefur, president of ADRA International. "Through these efforts, ADRA expresses its call to biblical social responsibility and considers it a vital task to help eradicate this terrible disease."
ADRA's five-part approach to HIV/AIDS includes programs addressing education, prevention, testing and treatment, ADRA leadership said. One example, the Abstinence and Behavior Change program, provides information and assistance to at-risk youth and young adults in Kenya.
The $12 million project is funded by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID). The project teaches young people about dangers associated with high-risk sexual behavior, including coercive and paid sex, and raises awareness about monogamy and abstinence.
Another ADRA project in Kenya provides school supplies, food, clothes and vocational training to AIDS orphans.
ADRA also works with child-headed households in Swaziland, which make up 15 percent of the country's total households. One in three adults in the country are HIV-positive, resulting in a high numbers of orphans, ADRA workers said. The program sends trained caregivers to the child-headed homes to assess the situation and provide a support network.
For more information about AAIM, visit aidsministry.org.
For more information about ADRA's HIV/AIDS programs, visit adra.org.