Archive for the HIV & AIDS Category

Memories of Mandela: A Seeker of Justice and AIDS Activist

Posted on Friday, December 20th, 2013 at 2:26 pm

By Breda Gahan, Global HIV and AIDS Adviser, Concern Worldwide, Dublin, Ireland

I remember the night of February 2, 1990, well.

I was working my first post with Concern Worldwide in Sudan, where I had arrived from Ireland in 1988 to help train traditional midwives and community health workers in a small village called Dinder. Most of our health education work was done at night, as it was difficult for the village women to go out during daylight hours. After a late evening Dinder’s town hospital or at the Midwifery School in nearby Sennar, I would head home, where the radio was one of my few windows to the world outside my little village. One night in February, I heard a BBC broadcast announce that South African anti-apartheid leader Nelson Mandela had been freed after 27 years in prison.

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War and Landmines: I Only Saw the Survivors

Posted on Tuesday, September 17th, 2013 at 12:01 pm

As Concern Worldwide draws its programs in Cambodia to a close after 23 years, Senior Health and HIV Advisor, Breda Gahan, recalls some of her experiences there in more turbulent times

Breda Gahan of Concern meets 14-year-old Breda Huot, who was named in her honor, in Kompong Speu, Cambodia.

Breda Gahan of Concern meets 14-year-old Breda Huot, who was named in her honor, in Kompong Speu, Cambodia.

Twenty-three years on, it’s a different country entirely

Back in 1991, there was a lot of insecurity. While a peace agreement was signed in Paris, the country was still marred by warfare. Working conditions were difficult. We set up office in the Monorom Hotel in Phnom Penh and for the next three years I spent there, change in the country was always evident.

While my job was in Cambodia, I first traveled to Thailand to better understand not only Concern’s work in the refugee camps, but also what people felt about returning to Cambodia. When I reached Aranyaprathet town in eastern Thailand where the Khmer refugee camps were mostly located, I could hardly believe the size of the “camp cities.” I had never seen anything like it. The camps, at that time more than a decade old, had a sense of order. However, as permanent as they felt, you could sense people’s enthusiasm to return home.

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Let’s Talk about HIV and AIDS

Posted on Friday, January 4th, 2013 at 11:53 am

By Ivy Ndiewo, Communication and Documentation Officer, Concern Worldwide

An estimated 1.6 million people are living with HIV in Kenya. While we know that the majority of them are from Nyanza Province, the region in the country’s southwest around Lake Victoria, there is much that we still do not know about HIV and AIDS in Kenya. For example, there are no clear records of the prevalence rate in urban slums, especially when many people likely do not know they are HIV-positive.

A community conversation groups meets in Migori District, Kenya. Photo: Concern Worldwide

Concern Worldwide uses what we call “community conversations” in Nyanza Province as well as Mukuru, a slum east of Nairobi, to break down many of the barriers that keep people from getting tested, and if they are diagnosed, taking antiretroviral (ARV) medications. We first piloted the approach in 2010 as a way for people to talk about their challenges and find solutions. There are now 24 community conversation groups across Nyanza Province and in Nairobi’s urban slums—all of which tackle HIV and AIDS head-on.

I spoke with my colleagues Belinda, Jane, and Julia, who are all community conversation facilitators in different areas of Mukuru. They said that community members see HIV and AIDS as one of their biggest challenges, with orphans and single parenting on the rise due to HIV and AIDS. Many are living in denial of their status, refusing to take ARVs. This is exactly where community conversations come in.  Read the rest of this entry »

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HIV/AIDS: The tide is turning, but not fast enough

Posted on Tuesday, September 11th, 2012 at 9:49 am

By Breda Gahan, Global HIV & AIDS Program Advisor


46 percent of people living with and AIDS in the world’s poorest countries are still without access to life-saving anti-retroviral treatment

Recently the U.S. government, through the Health and Human Services Department, announced $68 million in new grants to support comprehensive HIV and AIDS care for women, infants, and youth. The investment came on the heels of the 19th International AIDS Conference which drew thousands of people from across the globe into Washington, DC under the theme, “Turning the Tide Together.”

With 46 percent of people living with HIV and AIDS in the world’s poorest countries without access to life-saving anti-retroviral treatment, it begs the question: have we really begun to turn the tide?

While the new investment from the U.S. government in HIV and AIDS will undoubtedly make treatment available to more people who need it, we will never reverse the crippling effects of this 100 percent preventable—and increasingly treatable—disease if the international community does not come together and make it a priority.

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Ordinary Heroes: Surviving Critical Strikes in Kenya

Posted on Thursday, June 10th, 2010 at 12:19 pm

Anne Warimu in the heart of Korogocho Slums, Nairobi. Photo: Bessie Nikhozi, Kenya , Concern Worldwide

How would you define the word “resilience”? In my role as Advocacy Officer for Concern Kenya, in which I am exposed daily to the life and death struggles of people living in absolute poverty, I realize that for me and the people for whom I am trying to give a voice, this word has a significance that it might not have for others.

An engineer would probably define resilience as “the quality of buoyancy or elasticity.” A psychologist might describe it as “the capacity to cope with stress and catastrophe.” I began considering the different ways people understand this word after seeing it defined on a video game website as “an attribute that reduces a character’s chances of receiving a ‘critical strike’ or ‘spells of critical strikes’.”

In the game, the “characters” must face life-and-death duels with dragons and trolls trying to reach a treasure trove, and the threat of “critical strikes” lies around every corner. To survive, the “heroes” in this game must acquire “resilience” by finding and consuming elixirs and other enchantments secretly hidden along their path. These give them power to recover from “critical strikes.” Read the rest of this entry »

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