I am an American citizen working among more than 100 HIV+ women in a unique sewing program in Jos, Nigeria. I want to personally thank you for your valiant efforts to prolong the lives of these women. My friends aren't dying anymore thanks to your President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR). These women and their families are eternally grateful to you and the U.S. people for providing free anti-retroviral drugs for them. You have changed their story: They are living fairly normal lives. They are raising their children. They can now work.
The generosity of the U.S. government is overwhelming to me. Every time I give a tour to U.S. visitors in Nigeria, I get choked up thinking about what my government is doing 'for the least of these.' The PEPFAR program is an amazing humanitarian effort in 15 countries around the world. In 2003, the U.S. Congress approved 15 billion dollars for a period of five years, and in 2008 Congress approved a staggering 48 billion dollars for the next five years. I'm proud to say that PEPFAR is actually reaching the grassroots of Nigeria. There are tens of thousands of HIV+ people (men, women, & children) accessing FREE anti-retroviral drugs in our city of Jos. They are receiving other services through PEPFAR as well.
To my amazement, only about 5% of the American tourists who visit Mashiah Foundation have ever heard of PEPFAR. Only about 1% can articulate something about the program. Why don't the U.S. citizens know more about PEPFAR?
Nanwor Tonga, 31, was told that she had HIV the day before her wedding in April 2002. The wedding was cancelled, and Nanwor prepared for an imminent death. In a valiant attempt to save their daughter's life, her parents managed to scrape together $300 every month for 6 months in order to buy herbal drugs for her. With time that became impossible to maintain; later she was able to access free anti-retroviral drugs through the PEPFAR program. Today Nanwor is a thriving, contributing member of Nigerian society. She is on staff with Mashiah Foundation's Self-Sustainability Program.
In 2006 Martina Markus was unconscious for two weeks with a CD4 count of 14. She started taking anti-retroviral (ARV) drugs through the PEPFAR program and now proudly boasts a CD4 count of 380.
Patricia Emmanuel's CD4 count went from 95 to a whopping 905 after taking the ARV drugs. What would have happened to her four children if she had died for lack of access to drugs?
Had the U.S. government chosen to avert its eyes from the global AIDS crisis, I'm afraid I would be telling a different story today.
President Bush and the American people, we are indeed grateful for your wisdom, foresight, and compassion. Your legacy is the living, breathing testimony of thousands of grateful Nigerians.
Mary Beth Oyebade