Eda Mutale Lifuka, a resident of Zambia, is a Department of Defense HIV/AIDS program manager. This is the final blog post in a series written from the 2010 International HIV/AIDS Conference in Tanzania.
For me, the US President’s Plan for Emergency AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) has not only provided hope for a new “HIV free” era but also gratitude for an intervention. My only wish is that it would have come earlier because it would have saved, or at least prolonged, the lives of those near and dear to me. In Zambia, we use a term that goes like, “we are all either affected or infected;” no one can say they have not felt the impact of the scourge.
I am extremely passionate about the efforts of
Since receiving aid from PEPFAR, we have had many success stories. I love these because they show that progress is being made and that we are moving in the right direction. Some examples of these successes include seeing a man, who was almost dying, standing up and saying, “I would not be here had it not been for the American People,” or seeing an HIV positive mother giving birth to twins who are negative. Both stories give a sense of hope for the future.
Being Zambian and a part of this initiative gives me a sense of pride and lets me know that the situation can be better. The service delivery and infrastructure improvements benefit the military and the surrounding communities that access base health services.
The military-specific program is great because it provides an opportunity for the Department of Defense (DoD) to train host country militaries on how to interact. DoD can relate because they face similar challenges and constraints during deployment. This interaction, collaboration and success can be seen at gatherings such as the 2010 International Military HIV/AIDS Conference in Arusha, Tanzania. This forum brings together countries from all around the globe and provides an opportunity for sharing lessons learned and best practices. Militaries tap into initiatives from other countries to learn new strategies and their efforts are reenergized, which motivates them to do better.
At the conference, there is a sense of camaraderie, the poster presentation is lively and there is energy in the room as people move around to see the displays. As you reach each country station, there is a sense of pride as the representatives’ talk about their programs. There is also an exchange of materials as well as ideas and long lasting contacts are made, which are not only a source of friendship but also a source for technical assistance for the future.
The American people are making a difference in the lives of people all over the world.