By: Belinda Stewart-Burger, Vice President of the TIAS ARMS Board

We have recently seen tragedy unfold across the globe. First, the COVID-19 pandemic that began in 2019, and now a war in Ukraine that threatens to destroy peace. Joanne Baker founded TIAS ARMS, the non-profit organization to raise funds for children in South Africa affected by HIV and AIDS. However, a question emerges as we contemplate the current state of HIV and AIDS in South Africa. Have we reached a point where fundraising for such a cause has become obsolete? We wish it were so.

Before COVID-19, the last epidemic humanity faced with dire uncertainty was indeed the AIDS epidemic. In the early 1980s, a strange disease appeared for which there was no cure. Once near empty graveyards in South Africa, quickly filled with hundreds of new graves, marked with small white crosses, signaling the deadly nature of HIV.

“Even today, despite plunging death rates and greater leadership on the AIDS war front, the rate of new HIV infections continues to rise year after year. As a result, South Africa remains the country with the largest single population of HIV-infected people in the world” (Cichocki, 2020, para. 2).

In 2020, 7.7 million people, 14% of the population, are living with HIV in South Africa. The HIV rates for adults are even higher, with 19% of adults between the ages of 15-47 infected. AIDS causes nearly half of all deaths, and they estimate there are 600,000 children orphaned by AIDS (Cichocki, 2020).

Children from our grantee site during the COVID-19 Pandemic

An ongoing battle against HIV rages on. The work of TIAS ARMS, therefore, remains highly relevant. Our nonprofit continues to raise awareness. Bringing this issue to the forefront in both South Africa and the United States, what ensues is an ongoing focus on efforts to prevent HIV and provide the much-needed treatment as antiretroviral treatment. COVID thwarted these efforts but continues to be an immense amount of work in progress by the global community.

The downstream effects of HIV and AIDS continue to be social, psychological, and economic. Children are living without their parents, without consistent opportunities for education, family stability, and basic needs.

Enter TIAS ARMS, who after 20 years is still mitigating these disastrous effects of an ongoing epidemic. TIAS ARMS funding provides homes, schooling, food, education, and clothing to the children we reach. More than this, TIAS ARMS gives these same children hope, joy, dignity, and access to loving caregivers. So, with the help of our generous TIAS ARMS supporters, we soldier on, knowing we make a difference.

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