Sharing Hope, Stories: Forum to Take Inside Look at AIDS in Africa

October 04, 2007 - News Release

Dr. Anne-Marie Zadjlik, the Guelph physician working to raise $1 million for an AIDS clinic in Lesotho, knows that numbers alone cannot tell the story of the devastation of AIDS in Africa — even though the statistics are staggering.

More than 27 million people in sub-Saharan Africa have AIDS. That means a continent that is inhabited by about 12 per cent of the world's population has about 60 per cent of the world's AIDS cases.

Upwards of two million people die from the disease each year in Africa, and more than 12 million children have been orphaned as a result of AIDS.

"It is difficult to believe that one person can make a difference when the problem is so massive and the suffering is so great," said Zadjlik, founder of the Masai Centre for Local, Regional and Global Health.

"One of our goals is to create awareness by telling the stories of the people of Africa, specifically, Lesotho and Tšepong , and to inspire each individual to take action and respond. A massive collective response involving every person, every Canadian, can change the face of AIDS and save a country from the brink of extinction."

People will have an opportunity to hear from doctors and volunteers who have worked on the front lines in Africa Oct. 10 at a free public forum at the University of Guelph. It begins at 5:30 p.m. the Lifetime Learning Centre at the Ontario Veterinary College.

The event is part of U of G's ongoing Masai Project: For Africa, for AIDS, for Hope, which the University launched last year to support Zadjlik's efforts. U of G's goal is to raise $100,000, mostly by selling “Bracelets of Hope,” red The bracelets are being sold across campus for $5. To date, about $60,000 has been raised.

"Every bracelet we sell in Guelph and across Canada and abroad supports the fight against AIDS in Africa," says said Claire Alexander, U of G’s special projects manager and a member of the University’s Masai committee.

The bracelets also help improve the lives and livelihoods of African women, she said. The red-and-white
beaded bracelets are produced by a rural women's co-operative in Eshowe, Kwazulu-Natal, South Africa.

"They are a very visible and symbolic way for people across Canada to show that they are supporting humanitarian efforts and helping fight this pandemic," Alexander said. Nineteen other universities in Canada have expressed interest in starting bracelet campaigns, as well as three in Europe.

Zadjlik's campaign has raised nearly $700,000 for the clinic in Lesotho, considered the epicentre of the AIDS epidemic in Africa. Lesotho has the third-highest prevalence of AIDS in the world.

President Alastair Summerlee, who has travelled to Africa twice representing the World University Service of Canada, will host the forum. The other participants, all of whom have worked at the Tšepong Clinic in Lesotho, are:

• Dr. Brian Cornelson, an HIV primary-care physician and director of the HIV family practice clinics at St. Michael's Hospital in Toronto.

• Dr. Jennifer Young, a family and emergency room physician at the General & Marine Hospital in Collingwood, who has worked in India and West Africa.

• Sister Christa Mary Jones, a native of Toronto who works as a nurse practitioner and trained and worked in South Africa.

• Jamie White, a pediatric nurse and social outreach worker who launched a co-operative to provide scholarships to at-risk students in Lesotho.

• Alicia Homer, interim executive director of OHAfrica in Toronto, which supports people living with HIV/AIDS in Lesotho.

Although the Oct. 10 forum is free, organizers are encouraging participants to buy a bracelet in lieu of admission. The event will include a question-and-answer session and singing by student Alexander Kalimbira.

For media questions, contact Communications and Public Affairs: Lori Bona Hunt, 519-824-4120, Ext. 53338, or Deirdre Healey, 519-824-4120, Ext. 56982.

University of Guelph
50 Stone Road East
Guelph, Ontario, N1G 2W1