Meet a woman named Agnes. Agnes is a mother living with HIV/AIDS in Kampala, the capital of Uganda, in east Africa.
It has been more than a decade since she lost her husband, Augustine, and youngest child, Christopher, to AIDS. Another son, Charles, ran away from home to escape the stigma of his disease-ridden family.
But Agnes is not defined by victimhood; not even close. Agnes is much more than an AIDS survivor—she’s an AIDS savior.
Today Agnes works in Kampala as a nurse and activist at an organization called The AIDS Support Organization where she distributes simple, lifesaving pills to her neighbors and fellow mothers living with HIV. The pills are called anti-retroviral drugs, or ARVs, and are paid for by the United States. She devotes her life to this cause so others don’t have to needlessly lose a spouse or a child, as she has, to this entirely preventable and treatable disease.
“Two pills that cost only a few dollars a day can save a life,” Agnes said. “I know, because I take ARVs, and I remember how sick I was before and am amazed at how strong I am now.”
It’s called The Lazarus Effect—borrowed from the story of Jesus raising Lazarus from the dead in the Gospel of John—and it happens when those sick with HIV/AIDS have access to and begin taking ARVs. They become strong and living despite the disease. And Agnes is a living model of the potential found in The Lazarus Effect, not only is she flourishing, but she’s contributing to the health of her community around her.
Sub-Saharan Africa remains at the center of the storm, not only when it comes to AIDS, but also malaria, tuberculosis and countless other diseases that we know how to treat and prevent.
The statistics are equally heartbreaking, infuriating and mind-boggling: every 40 seconds a child in sub-Saharan Africa dies from malaria, a disease eradicated in the United States in the 1940s. Tens of thousands of children will lose their lives today for lack of the simplest medicines to treat diseases like measles, pneumonia or dehydration. There are more than 12 million AIDS orphans in Africa today, and there will almost certainly be more tomorrow.
But bemoaning these numbers won’t serve you or me or, most importantly, those suffering. To take a lesson from Agnes, now is not the time to wallow in negative news or be paralyzed by the size of it all.
Now is the time to act.
It’s time because today, like never before, we have the chance to make a historic, lifesaving, world-changing difference when it comes to global health. Thanks to so many things—advances in medicine, strong African leadership, better global initiatives and commitments from the United States and others, countless committed non-profits and grassroots advocates and an emerging global partnership for development—the thought of turning these seemingly insurmountable statistics into monumental triumphs is no longer a dream. It is within our grasp.
Never before have we had so many simple solutions—the medicines and technologies—and never have they been so affordable. Ten years ago, a year’s worth of medicines and treatment for someone like Agnes living with HIV cost $10,000. Today, a year’s worth of treatment costs $140. Similarly, today a bed net that protects a child from contracting malaria from a mosquito bite costs only $10 to make and distribute, and treatment is down to $2 a dose.
Just as critically, we’re learning how to put these simple solutions to work more effectively and efficiently. Thanks to countless African leaders and activists, such as Agnes, backed in part by smarter global health initiatives from the United States and others, these simple solutions are starting to deliver historic results.
Of course there is so much more that must be done. The need still outpaces these advances. Millions still die needlessly. That’s where we need you.
Realize and believe that this fight can be won. Ten years ago, Agnes lost two loved ones and learned she too had a death-sentence of a disease. Today, Agnes is healthy, and there are new medicines available, new global efforts underway, a growing, worldwide movement of people devoted to seeing these needless deaths end
Indeed, Agnes—and the world around her—have changed. Now it’s the time to act. Follow Agnes’ lead and join us.
Adam Phillips is the Faith Relations Manager at ONE.