Senator Christopher Coons recently lead a congressional delegation to South Africa to meet with high-ranking South Africa government officials on U.S. foreign policy priorities in Africa such as health.
In Soweto the delegation visited U.S. government funded health programs which partnered with South African NGOs to deliver HIV/AIDS related health services to communities. The funding source is the President's Emergency Fund for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR), the largest commitment by any nation to combat a single disease.
And it was here that Senator Coon met Patricia Mabaso and heard the story which prompted his response "It is so inspiring to see the good work PEPFAR funding has done in South Africa since its inception, from saving the lives of many to empowering women about HIV/AIDS"
Patricia, a mother of 3 children, was diagnosed with HIV in 2008. With no money for medication, let alone support, and the complication of having Multi-Drug Resistant Tuberculosis (MDR), her chances of survival looked bleak. She had been bedridden for months, could not move, and her family had lost hope that she would ever recuperate, when she was identified by Nelivia Moyo, a home based care giver from CARE.
Nelivia immediately registered Patricia with Senaoane, a local clinic, to receive ARV's (Anti retroviral medication)
Now that Patricia is on ARV's, receiving support from home based care givers, and has been educated about HIV/AIDS, she has the opportunity of a longer and fulfilling life - "I thought I was going to die, but today I'm singing another tune, thanks to the home based care givers."
Both CARE and Senaone Clinic are recipients of funding from the President's Emergency Fund for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR),
Patricia concluded, "Indeed, the funding that PEPFAR has given Care has been used to save the lives of many in this area."
Senator Coons stated that with sustained PEPFAR funding over the last decade, many, many lives like Patricia's have been saved. "To actually witness a life that was almost lost due to lack of knowledge and the right medication, makes one realize the importance of PEPFAR in South Africa", he said, adding that not only has South Africa played a pivotal role in educating people about the virus and further saving lives, but has also put the funding to optimal use.
CARE Director Keith Malongo expressed his appreciation towards the U.S government, stating with PEPFAR funding of R800, 000 per year, CARE escalating from seeing 100 people a month to 1 000 people a month. "Ever since PEPFAR funding was introduced we have seen a remarkable difference in terms of saving lives, people having access to ARV's and most of all education about and de-stigmatization of HIV/AIDS".