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International News
Stephen Lewis Foundation Donates $300,000 to Hospital in Congo to Address Sexual Violence, HIV/AIDS

June 13, 2008

The Stephen Lewis Foundation on Monday announced that it will provide $300,000 to the Panzi Hospital in the Democratic Republic of Congo to support survivors of sexual violence and women living with HIV/AIDS, VOA News reports (DeCapua, VOA News, 6/9). According to the CP/, the hospital has treated about 15,000 survivors of sexual violence since 1999, and 10% of the women and girls treated have tested positive for HIV.

The grant -- in addition to $350,000 the foundation already has given to the hospital and an associated homebuilding project, called City of Joy -- will allow the hospital to purchase surgical equipment, increase safe blood supplies and scale up HIV testing (CP/, 6/9). The latest grant also will fund treatment for both physical and psychological trauma. The psychological efforts will include resources and personnel, such as counselors from similar projects in Kenya, Rwanda, South Africa and Zambia (VOA News, 6/9).

The foundation also has called on the United Nations to fulfill its mandate to protect women and girls in Africa. Stephen Lewis, former U.N. special envoy for HIV/AIDS in Africa, noted that what is so incomprehensible about unchecked violence against women is that "the world knows" it is happening but that little is being done to stop it. In Congo, it is estimated that 200,000 women and girls have been sexually assaulted or subjected to other forms of sexual violence, the CP/ reports (CP/, 6/9).

"The level of sexual violence and the brutality of the assaults has resulted in ... spreading the HIV and AIDS virus, so that more and more women are turning up at the Panzi Hospital," Lewis said. He added, "More women are turning up at the Panzi Hospital HIV-positive. And we felt, given the circumstance and the way in which the virus is transmitted through rape and sexual violence, we should get involved" (VOA News, 6/9).

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