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International News

Kenya: Church Leader Reverses Stance on HIV, Reaches Out to Those Affected

March 4, 2011

For Kenyan church leader Patrician Sawo, discovering she herself had HIV marked the beginning of a turnaround in her attitude about the virus and those it affects.

"I thought it was a moral issue and a punishment for the disobedient," Sawo said. But in 1999, she discovered she was HIV-positive; she suspected the transmission resulted from a blood transfusion. Despite four years fasting and praying for healing, she remained infected. She and her husband lost their jobs and were evicted from their home. A small business they started failed, too; customers were afraid to be around them.

At last, Sawo found her way to the non-governmental organization Handicap International, learned more about HIV/AIDS, and began to get her life back.

Ordained a minister in 2002, Sawo helped found ANERELA+, an organization of African religious leaders affected by HIV/AIDS. Sawo threw herself into her AIDS ministry, using nearly all her income to help those who came to her for assistance.

Sawo and her husband in 2005 established the Discover to Recover Center. As its patients died, the center evolved into a home for the orphans they left behind. Sawo is assisted by seven staff members and several of her own children in caring for the center's 48 young residents. She also provides support for about 50 HIV-affected children who live with family members, and she counsels some two-dozen people monthly.

Sawo's husband died of malaria and typhoid in 2009; the center survives chiefly with support from the US non-profit Hope Span. She hopes eventually to expand the center's services to include primary and secondary schools, as well as vocational training. And Sawo believes that through her work, she has found the "healing" she prayed for when first diagnosed.

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Back to other news for March 2011

Adapted from:
02.24.2011; Kathleen Toner

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This article was provided by CDC National Prevention Information Network. It is a part of the publication CDC HIV/Hepatitis/STD/TB Prevention News Update.
See Also
More on African Churches and HIV/AIDS

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