PEPFAR (President’s Emergency Plan For AIDS Relief) is a United States Federal program targeting relief for the global HIV/AIDS epidemic. As Sr Mary, Nyumbani Executive Director, noted, “the U.S. government PEPFAR program covers all anti-retroviral medication for the children here.”
Since its inception in 2003, the U.S. President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) has received strong bipartisan support in Congress and through administrations, including two reauthorizations with significant majorities. The United States is unquestionably the world’s leader in responding to the global HIV/AIDS crisis. Originally conceived as a compassionate effort to save the lives of those in countries hardest hit by HIV/AIDS with urgently needed treatment and care, PEPFAR is now also undertaking the challenge of actually controlling the pandemic.
When Father Angelo D’Agostino discovered that orphanages were turning away HIV-infected infants, he decided to take matters into his own hands. Alongside Sister Mary Owens, Father D’Agostino established Nyumbani in 1992 with one goal: to serve children directly impacted by AIDS in Kenya. Today, Nyumbani serves more than 4,000 children infected and affected by HIV under Sister Mary’s leadership. In addition to direct medical care, Nyumbani provides a sustainable child-centered approach that includes education, stigma reduction, workforce training, and community integration. Nyumbani, which means “home” in Kiswahili, is just that to the communities it serves: combining medical and diagnostic facilities with a family-centered model of care and support. Nyumbani runs four programs in Kenya: » Nyumbani Children’s Home, which cares for 120 HIV-positive children from infants to age 23 » Lea Toto Community Outreach Centers, which serve nearly 3,000 HIV-positive children and their families at eight sites in the Nairobi slums » Nyumbani Diagnostic Laboratory, which provides state-of-the-art testing and counseling services to children and patients, while generating income by providing services to the broader community » Nyumbani Village, which houses 1,000 children and 100 grandparents affected by HIV/AIDS Despite the progress made, Sister Mary knows that there is still much left to do: “The stigma has to be eradicated. HIV is a medical condition—that’s all it is. But I am afraid that a high percentage of people don’t see it like that.”