The participating members of parliament were recruited from diverse backgrounds and from numerous political parties within their countries. An additional aim of the study tour was to forge strong working relationships with their counterparts in other African parliaments and to continue those partnerships after the conclusion of the study tour. On the last day of their visit to Atlanta, they visited AIDS Survival Project. Once they completed a tour of our facility, they were seated in the Bruce Almond Community Room for a group session enabling them to speak openly with persons living with HIV/AIDS. The group seemed very excited by the prospect of being able to ask questions and to receive information from people who have hands-on experience with living with the virus and who do not mind speaking openly about it.
|ASP staffers met with members of parliament from several African nations.|
The tour, funded by the International Republican Institute, also received additional funding from the State Department. Before departing on the tour, the members held meetings to discuss their goals and objectives with other representatives from their home countries. Their goals and objectives were then evaluated through the length of the program through debriefing sessions and breakout discussion groups. At the conclusion of the program, there was a scheduled panel discussion at the Institute's office in Washington, D.C., where members presented what they learned and discussed ways in which they can apply their findings to their work in their home constituencies and national parliaments.
It is always eye-opening to talk with people from other countries about the plight of people with HIV and AIDS. We take so much for granted in this country. We are so fortunate to have the range of options that are open to us: the number of doctors and specialists available, not to mention the medications, complementary and alternative therapies and the wide range of support groups. There is still so much stigma and discrimination on the continent of Africa that people cannot even share their diagnoses with members of their families, much less get access to good medicines, doctors or clinic facilities. It was good to be able to share information with these dignitaries who are working diligently through their government agencies in order to improve conditions and access to medications for people in their countries and to gain greater access to whatever resources are available to them.
As an African-American woman living with HIV, I always make time to give thanks for the many blessings in my life and in turn, I bless all the people that I come in contact with, many of whom are struggling just to keep afloat. Let us remember that expressing gratitude should be a part of our daily routine. The visit from our African neighbors certainly made me more aware of how much I have to be thankful for and how little it takes to bring a little sunshine into someone else's life.