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Article Archive >> Good Health

A cow's role in the battle against AIDS

A cow's role in the battle against AIDS

(ARA)- Seven-year-old Alice Karwera lives in Ruhengeri, Rwanda, one of the worst affected areas during the bloody 100 days in 1997 when the Hutu were slaughtering the Tutsi. Like millions of children around the world, Alice's days were filled with overwhelming hunger. Shortly before her sixth birthday, she tested HIV positive. Not long after that her parents Matilda and Jean also tested positive. Luckily her brothers Evailsie and Aimable, age 14 and 12, are not infected with the AIDS virus.
Just before being diagnosed with HIV, Alice's parents heard from some friends that Heifer International was in the area providing needy families with livestock. They eagerly began training in Heifer's sustainable agricultural methods and making preparations to receive a cow.
Alice's mother was the one to apply and sign a "living loan" contract. Her father signed as a witness because Heifer's experience has shown that when women own resources, the income is most likely to be spent on nutrition and education for the family. Besides, Jean agrees that they make better spending decisions when they talk over what they are going to do first.
Alice's family was barely hanging on when the Heifer cow arrived. She was named Humbuiergwanda, which means, "I long for my country," and her impact on the family's health was immediate and profound. The protein from her milk rejuvenated the family, and in a short time, Alice's father gathered the strength to begin planting crops and teaching her brothers to farm.
Humbuiergwanda stays in a restricted area where she is cared for, and food is brought to her. The manure she produces is easier to gather for fertilizer, and it quickly improved the family's crop yields. She produces four gallons of milk daily giving the family plenty of surplus milk to sell.
Because of the income from their cow, little Alice's family can afford Anti-retroviral drugs to combat HIV/AIDS. Alice visits a nearby clinic weekly to be weighed, checked, and to get a one-week supply of medication. Much improved, she is now able to run and play.
To repay their living loan, Alice's family passed on a heifer to another family, and sold a second calf, also a female, for $600--an enormous windfall for a family in rural Rwanda. "Then we saved $600 from selling the milk," Matilda says, "and we were able to buy this house near the road, install a good water collection system, and buy some good hens. Besides that, we are drinking milk at home every morning and evening."
Jean's prayer is to see the cow business continue and engage the whole family. "I would love to have five cows. It is very possible," he grins. "We are keeping the heifer calf that is in the stalls now. I will even pass on cows to our children when they set up their homes."
According to the United Nations, Sub-Saharan Africa has just over 10 percent of the world's population, but is home to more than 60 percent of all people living with HIV--25.8 million. In 2005, an estimated 3.2 million people in the region became newly infected, while 2.4 million adults and children died of AIDS.
Animal gifts from Heifer International provide two essential resources for impoverished families in rural Africa who are impacted by HIV/AIDS: needed income and nutrition.
Increasing income allows people diagnosed with HIV/AIDS to buy Anti-retroviral drugs and better nutrition, which includes animal proteins (milk, eggs and meat), helps people tolerate the drugs. This ensures a better quality of life and a more hopeful future for the entire family.
For more information on helping support Heifer's HIV/AIDS initiative, visit www.heifer.org or call (800) 422-1311.

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