Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

HIV Mothers Express Hope for Future

Patty Thomas felt helpless after learning that she contracted HIV, the virus that causes AIDS, when she was 27 years old.

But Thomas’ attitude has changed.

“Living with HIV/AIDS is no picnic, but it is possible to find love, joy, hope and peace in your struggle with HIV/AIDS,” she said. “It is honestly this kind of hope that keeps us going everyday.”

Thomas, along with fellow African and HIV-positive mothers Gloria Neanywa and Nosisi Mncheke and U.S. Ambassador Randall Tobias, spoke Wednesday in Gaston Hall about her experiences dealing with HIV/AIDS.

Thomas said mothers2mothers, a South African program that provides mentorship, education and counseling for pregnant mothers with HIV/AIDS, helped her deal with the disease and led her to help others experiencing similar difficulties. Thomas currently works as a site coordinator for the program.

Neanywa, also a site coordinator for mothers2mothers, commended the program for providing hope and support to young women inflicted with the virus.

“What I’m doing there is to give mothers hope,” she said. “I’m not proud having HIV, but I’m proud I can help other people with the virus.”

Mncheke, who said that she felt she had no future when she first learned that she was HIV-positive and also serves as a site coordination for mothers2mothers, echoed support for the program.

“It did take time for me to accept that I was HIV-positive,” Mncheke said. “[Mothers2mothers] gave me a lot of support.”

University President John J. DeGioia opened the conference by emphasizing the importance of combating HIV/AIDS in today’s global society. He also praised the women of mothers2mothers for their work.

“How we respond to this threat will define this era of history,” DeGioia said. The women who serve for mothers2mothers “are the embodiment of love and compassion in their support to each other.”

Tobias, the U.S. global AIDS coordinator, stressed the devastating effect that HIV/AIDS has on younger people in many parts of the world.

“Young adults in Asia, Africa and the Americas are the most likely to get AIDS,” Tobias said. “HIV/AIDS is a destroyer of hope for the future.”

Tobias called for the international community, particularly industrialized nations like the United States to step up and help fight the disease.

“This is a challenge for the whole world, and at this point, one can not let the developing nations handle [it] alone,” Tobias said.

Tobias, who was appointed by President Bush in 2003, then outlined PEPFAR, the president’s emergency plan for AIDS relief, which he helps to administer. Tobias said that PEPFAR calls on the nation to be a global leader in AIDS prevention by contributing more than any other state – the United States has so far pledged almost $2 billion in support through 2008 – and training native people to help relieve their countries by providing support for HIV/AIDS victims.

“The effects of these trainings will ripple for decades,” Tobias said. “It will take all of us . to face the challenge of HIV/AIDS.”

The conference was presented by the university president’s office.

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