Caring for the vulnerable children of AIDS victims

For every person infected with HIV, there are family members affected by the virus and everything that comes with it. The hopelessness and stigma touch many more than just the person carrying the virus.

In Ethiopia, FH serves more than 2,000 AIDS orphans and vulnerable children. It is all too common for children to lose one or both parents to the disease. But even while infected parents are still living, their children are vulnerable and in need of care.

This is the story of an Ethiopian girl named Tigist. The first part of her story is all too common for children of HIV-positive parents. But read on, and you’ll see where her path takes a new turn….

Tigist was 8 years old and living on the street with her HIV-positive mother and little brother. She felt the painful stigma of AIDS every time her mother lost her job because the employers or customers learned she was infected. The family bounced around, scraping together the means to survive and living in 12 rented spaces in a span of just eight years.

(Tigist [right] with her mother)
“I thought that my mother was going to die and that I would just become
a hired worker for someone else,” she said. “So why should I go to school?”

It is this kind of fatalistic mindset that feeds the cycle of extreme poverty and despair. And with no education, Tigist likely would be destined to live in poverty for the rest of her life.

Desperate, this young girl took herself to the FH office after hearing the people there could help children like her. She led FH staff members back to meet her family. Immediately, FH responded by offering friendship, connection to a local church, monthly food staples, help accessing government resources, and regular follow-up visits to make sure the family had its basic needs met.

FH staff continued to walk closely with this family, and Tigist returned to school. Before too long, she ranked third in her class of 70 students. 

Tigist began earning scores in the 80s and 90s,
and the teacher’s comments said, “Excellent work!”

Because of her bravery in approaching FH for help,
Tigist, the child of an HIV-positive mother,
now has a chance at a life free from extreme poverty.

The family soon moved off the street and into a one-room home, and Tigist’s mother began weaving traditional Ethiopian baskets to earn money. Life still is a challenge for this family, but Dawit Kassaye, former FH Ethiopia project manager, says positive change comes as Christians in Ethiopia and around the world live out the biblical call to care for the outcast.

“Those who follow Jesus are called to love their neighbors and to have special care for those who are vulnerable. We must be characterized by our love for the needy, which certainly includes the masses of people who are suffering directly or indirectly from HIV/AIDS. We can offer both physical health and spiritual hope in Christ,” he says.

Dawit and other FH staff in AIDS-affected parts of the world conduct biblically based abstinence and faithfulness teaching for youth — informing and empowering them to put an end to the spread of this disease.

All of this work is made possible by donations from people around the world. Consider joining Poverty 180 for only $9 a month if you’d like to be part of writing a new future for children like Tigist!