U.S. poverty-focused international assistance makes it possible for Catholic Relief Services and our partners to directly support more than 4.8 million people affected by HIV, people like Maresa Otieno. Back in 2001, Maresa was sick, so sick that she had to cut back her hours working as a housekeeper at St. Camillus Mission Hospital in Nyanza, Kenya. Doctors diagnosed her with HIV but could offer no hope. At the time, lifesaving antiretroviral therapy (ART) was very rare and very expensive in Kenya, and her part-time salary would not cover even one month of medication.
For years Maresa was in and out of the hospital as her condition worsened. Her life began to change in 2003, when St. Camillus began a small ART program for employees living with HIV. Eventually Maresa was the first patient to enroll in the U.S.-sponsored President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEFPAR) program at St. Camillus. In only three months, her condition began to improve and she soon was healthy enough to return to work full time and even found the energy to share her story and encourage others to seek treatment.
But that is not the end of Maresa’s story; in fact, it is just the beginning. Since t Maresa was earning more money, she and her husband combined their resources to buy a piece of land and build a new house. Seeing how strong she was, Maresa’s husband encouraged her to enroll at a teachers’ college. After she graduated, she and her husband wanted to have a baby. They enrolled in St. Camillus’ prevention of mother-to-child transmission (PMTCT) program and nine months later Maresa gave birth to a healthy daughter free of HIV.
Today Maresa teaches a class of 40 children at a local primary school. She and her husband are raising their healthy, rambunctious four-year-old daughter and look forward to a long life together. Thanks to PEPFAR, Maresa has her life back.
Your vocal support for this truly lifesaving international assistance has helped Maresa and millions just like her in some of the poorest countries in the world. Your voice is now needed again to protect this lifesaving aid. This World AIDS Day, contact your members of Congress and urge them to support poverty-focused international assistance. Your voice has made a difference and it will again.
“It has made me be alive,” Maresa says. “I would have died more than ten years back. And I have survived because of the project. I can see my daughter because of the project. I can stay in such a house because of the project. And I believe I’m going to live the best kind of life, because I’m okay! I live like any other person. Life is so good to me.”
Take action today. Visit the Confront Global Poverty Action Center or call 1-866-596-7030.
Contact your Member of Congress now!
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