The Daughters of Charity’s strategy is largely focussed around reducing the incidence and impact of HIV/AIDS. This outcome is brought about through a combined approach of diagnostics; education; counselling/supporting those who are HIV+ with income generating.
HIV is a virus which infects and destroys cells of the immune system, and transmitted by an exchange of bodily fluids (usually occurring during sexual intercourse, blood-transfusions, and needle sharing).
The longer the infection is left untreated, the more damage is done to the immune system, leaving sufferers at risk of secondary infections and cancers. Eventually, an untreated HIV infection leads to AIDS (acquired immunodeficiency syndrome), in which the body struggles to fight off infection, which causes much suffering and is generally fatal. The sooner HIV is diagnosed, the sooner it can be treated, which reduces the damage done to the immune system, and improves the quality and longevity of a sufferer’s life. Early diagnostics and intervention strategies also lower the probability of transmission, as infected people can modify their behaviour which may normally lead to more infections (particularly between infected mothers and their children). This is why early diagnostics is such a useful, holistic tool in the fight against HIV.
The Daughters of Charity fund and run St Mary’s laboratory and Free-standing HCT/HIV counselling and testing Centre in Addis Ababa. This is one of only three HIV diagnostic centres in the whole of Ethiopia. With expensive equipment which is also costly to maintain and staff which require specialist training, it is crucial that funding from donors increases, so that the scope of this operation may keep up with Ethiopia’s rapidly expanding population.