When Antonio Ferreira first started feeling like he might have high blood pressure, he went to a local health center in his hometown of Maputo, Mozambique. “Nothing was diagnosed,” he says. “I went back home still not feeling well.”
Antonio was still at home and feeling sick when a group of “activistas” — specially trained community health care specialists — came to pay him a visit. They encouraged him to go back to the hospital where he was finally diagnosed with HIV and AIDS. Now Antonio credits the group with saving his life.
The activistas were from a local ministry called the Chamanculo Project, an initiative of The Lutheran World Federation in Mozambique that works to educate and empower those living with HIV and AIDS.
The ELCA has been working side by side with The Lutheran World Federation both in the United States and abroad to halt the spread of HIV through prevention, treatment and care, to eliminate the discrimination and stigma experienced by those who are HIV positive and to reduce the conditions of poverty and marginalization that contribute to the spread of HIV.
The 2007 ELCA Churchwide Assembly recognized the need for the church to take a more prominent role in fighting and preventing HIV and AIDS and approved a strategy for this church.. The Lutheran World Federation is a global communion of 143 member churches in 79 countries all over the world. The ELCA is the federation’s only member church from the United States.
There are 10 activistas who work for the Chamanculo Project in Maputo, and they don’t just work with HIV and AIDS patients. They are trained to go into the community and talk with people about a variety of human rights issues like domestic violence, poverty and discrimination. Above all, though, they remain positive, which is important in these types of conversations.
“My first reaction was crying and blaming the nurses that they had not done the tests correctly and that it was probably someone else’s results they had,” Antonio says of his diagnosis. “I couldn’t believe that because I thought HIV and AIDS was for others, not for me.”
After speaking more with the activistas, though, Antonio came to terms with the diagnosis. “They sat down with me and counseled me until I understood that even with HIV and AIDS there was still a future.”
Once he understood that he could still live a happy, productive life, Antonio accepted the need to participate in treatment. “To accept the situation was extremely difficult,” he says. “I’m sure if I didn’t have the support from the activistas, I would have collapsed and died by now.”