October 23, 2006
Dr. Jane Philpott, whose daughter died from meningitis in West Africa, has challenged Canadians to give up a day's pay to help fight Africa's AIDS pandemic. Founder of the Give A Day to World AIDS Campaign, Philpott said her daughter's death gave her insight into the suffering of Africans and impressed on her what a profound impact a single day can have.
"I'm not the only mother in the world who knows what heartache one day can carry," Philpott said. "We [also] know that a day can make a difference in a brilliantly positive way."
Philpott, who spent nine years working in Niger in the 1990s, began the campaign in 2004 among physicians at a hospital in Markham, Ont., north of Toronto. The first year raised $33,000 Canadian ($29,258 US) for World AIDS Day. Last year, the campaign raised $100,000 Canadian ($88,660 US) at eight area hospitals.
Now, several law firms, business people, teachers, unions, and others have taken up the challenge. Philpott hopes the campaign will take off across the country.
"We can get overwhelmed by the enormity of the problem," Philpott said. "We have to start with what we can do in our sphere of influence in a small way and let those seeds that we plant grow."
Money raised goes to Dignitas International and the Stephen Lewis Foundation, both of which work to fight HIV/AIDS in Africa. UN estimates show about 24 million sub-Saharan Africans have HIV.
Stephen Lewis, who recently stepped down as the UN's special AIDS envoy in Africa, and Dr. James Orbinski, a Toronto associate professor who accepted the 1999 Nobel Peace Prize on behalf of Doctors Without Borders, have both praised the campaign. Orbinski is co-founder of Dignitas International.