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World AIDS Day

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The World AIDS Day ceremony, hosted by Witkoppen on December 1st, was a unique and powerful medium for patients and staff alike to come together and support one another in the struggle against HIV/AIDS.  Nearly 300 participants gathered in our courtyard with many displaying t-shirts adorned with the UNAIDS goal of ensuring that 90% of HIV-positive patients know their status, receive treatment, and achieve a viral load of less than 50 by the year 2020.  These efforts are part of a global initiative that encourages people to embrace a “positive” lifestyle as we work towards eliminating the disease entirely by the year 2030.

Our program began with a prayer and some opening remarks from Witkoppen’s Executive Director, Dr. Jean Bassett.  From there we performed a powerful candle-lighting ceremony as a poem was read to the audience.  Then came the educational component of our program as clinicians discussed current HIV statistics and explained how to put the UNAIDS goals into perspective.

Our FRESH Start dietician highlighted the importance of proper nutrition and explained how certain staple South African foods could help or hurt someone fighting against the HIV virus.  Patients were then given the chance to ask questions and share their own struggles with HIV/AIDS in their communities. The most emotional component of the ceremony was undoubtedly the fearless motivational speech from one of our very own Witkoppen staff members.  Despite her terrifying account of contracting the HIV virus from being raped, she ultimately delivered an uplifting message of embracing one’s inner strength and refusing to let one’s status define his or her character.  Our ceremony concluded with enough refreshments (most of which was donated from partner organizations) to send our patients home with full stomachs.  It is through initiatives like our World AIDS Day celebration that we can empower those who need support and build the solidarity required to conquer HIV/AIDS once and for all.


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