Giulia McPherson, deputy director for citizen advocacy at CARE, reports on her trip to South Africa with ONE and a Congressional delegation.
On a beautiful afternoon in Soweto – a township outside of Johannesburg known for its role in the struggle against apartheid – four members of Congress visited a CARE-sponsored health center that provides HIV prevention, treatment and counseling services.
The Congressional delegation included Sen. Chris Coons, D-Del.; Sen Johnny Isakson, R-Ga.; Rep. Karen Bass, D-Calif.; and Rep. Terri Sewell, R-Ala. The group met with HIV/AIDS support groups to see what their lives are like and learn about the struggles they face each and every day. The group also visited a mobile health clinic that travels to the community three times a week.
Sen. Coons visited the home of Patricia Mabaso, a mother of four who is HIV-positive and lives with tuberculosis. She participates in a CARE support group where she finds strength and encouragement from her fellow group members.
“Through this support group, I’m better able to cope with my situation,” Mabaso said.
CARE has operated in South Africa since 1994 and works to increase access to healthcare services for the poor and disenfranchised. In partnership with community-based organizations, CARE raises awareness about HIV counseling and testing services that are available. Because South Africa has the world’s highest rate of HIV infection, many families are in need of access to treatment and local health care providers.
On this day, the delegation came to see first-hand how US taxpayer dollars – in this case, through the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) – play a critical role in achieving offering a wide variety of health services. Some of the services include the prevention of HIV infection, improving care and treatment, and strengthening service delivery systems at district levels in South Africa.
The delegation heard and witnessed that HIV is not just a clinical issue, but a social one. Those affected by the disease continue to face discrimination, high rates of unemployment and food insecurity. In a country where one in four men have admitted to rape, women and girls are at an extremely high risk of infection because of cultural norms that sanction gender-based violence.
At the start of a new Congress, this trip helped make the case for continued US engagement in the fight for increased access to health services and gender equality and demonstrated how the US is playing a critical role in supporting these efforts.
Stay tuned for more updates on this trip next week!
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