Join Balm In Gilead in U.S.
to Develop HIV Prevention, Service Programs for Mother Land
By Teresa Lyles Holmes
African faith leaders from five African countries came to the United States, last month, to join the New York-based non-governmental organization Balm in Gilead in declaring a war on AIDS in Africa.
This international mission to stop the spread of HIV/AIDS throughout the African Diaspora is currently being hosted by Balm in Gilead during a six-week Africa HIV/AIDS Faith Initiative Training Institute in New York City with more than 35 African Christian and Muslim leaders participating from Cote d= Ivoire, Nigeria, Kenya, Tanzania and Zimbabwe. The training is designed to build the capacity of the national governing organization of the Catholic, Protestant and Muslim communities within each country to develop effective HIV/AIDS prevention programs and services that will include the prevention of mother to child transmission of HIV/AIDS. The training sessions, which commenced on March 10, will be completed on April 18, 2003.
In May 2002, Pernessa Seele, founder/CEO of The Balm In Gilead, and her delegation returned from a six week, five-country, work detail where African faith leaders signed official declarations vowing to stop the scourge of AIDS in their countries and to work in partnership with the US-based organization to gain the skills to mobilize and empower their countries= faith community to become an effective force in the fight against HIV/AIDS.
AThe Africa HIV/AIDS Training Institute is designed to train and empower these 35 African faith leaders to return to their nations and begin to create a social, political and cultural climate that will support the delivery of effective AIDS education and services that will stop 600 people becoming infected with the HIV virus every hour in sub-Sahara Africa.@ says Pernessa Seele.
Over the past year, The Balm In Gilead has developed a strong partnership with the highest ranking religious organizations, such as the Tanzania Catholic Conference, The Supreme Council of Kenya Muslims, The Heads of Christian Denomination of Zimbabwe to develop and support strategies that will provide a sustainable and systematic approach of addressing the challenges of the AIDS epidemic by implementing AIDS prevention and clinical services in churches and mosques in local towns and villages throughout the countries.
AThank you for coming to Africa to wake us up,@ said Dr. Adegbite Lateef Oladimeki, general secretary, Supreme Council of Islamic Affairs, Nigeria, in his response during the opening proceeding of the training institute in New York. AThe work that we will do over the next several weeks will make a great difference for many generations to come in Africa@.
Organizations involved in the Balm In Gilead=s training include the Mailman School of Public Health at Columbia University, The Black AIDS Institute and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Dr. Fred Wabwore-Mangen, Director, Institute of Public Health, Makerere University, Uganda and Drs. Robert & Mindy Fullilove of Columbia University are among special presenters during evening forums when African American faith leaders join with their African colleagues to discuss and forge alliances in addressing HIV/AIDS in Black communities globally. For more information on the Balm in Gilead, visit www.balmingilead.org.