I got on the plane in Cincinnati bound for Nashville and took my seat toward the back of the plane. While doing some Food for the Hungry (FH) work on my laptop, a tall, stately gentlemen caught my eye. I thought to myself, “I know I know him, but from where?” And then I connected the dots.
I knew I had seen him in the context of Capitol Hill in Washington D.C., and we were on a plane to Nashville, which is a likely place for a former U.S. senator from Tennessee.
So I took a chance and said, “Good morning, Senator Frist, so nice to see you after so many years!”
It turned out to be a good guess, and he was thrilled that I remembered him. We reminisced about a few times that we were together many years ago in Washington when he was the U.S. Senate Majority Leader. He asked me what I was planning to do in Nashville, and I told him that meeting him on the plane was actually a divine appointment in that I was headed to Nashville to participate in an event that would honor him for his years of tireless work on behalf of victims of HIV and AIDS around the world.
The event, organized by our partner organization, Blood:Water Mission, was an exciting time to gather together on World AIDS Day and celebrate the positive gains that have been made in the fight against HIV and AIDS, but also to recognize that much remains to be done to save millions from this horrendous pandemic.
At the Red Tie Gala for AIDS, Food for the Hungry and Blood:Water Mission announced that an exam room in an HIV/AIDS medical clinic in Uganda will be named after former Senator Majority Leader Dr. Bill Frist, who is a heart surgeon. In my estimation, there is no better way to commemorate World AIDS Day than by honoring outstanding individuals who are devoted to working for an AIDS free generation.
Dr. Frist is absolutely one of those heroes.
Senator Frist’s regular travels to and advocacy for the poor in the developing world have burned deep within him an understanding that behind every HIV/AIDS statistic there is a person, a family and a community. His tireless and courageous work to fight this pandemic has helped decrease the spread of the disease, increased access to treatment and protected vulnerable children from becoming orphans.
As Senate Majority Leader, Dr. Frist was instrumental in the passage of the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR), the massive U.S. initiative to fight HIV/AIDS, malaria and tuberculosis around the world. Over the last decade, he has traveled to more than a dozen African countries to combat HIV and perform surgery in Sudan, Kenya, Uganda and Mozambique, as well as respond to disasters in Sri Lanka, Sudan, New Orleans, Haiti and the Horn of Africa.
The New Life Center Clinic, which will have an exam room named for Frist, is in Kitgum, Uganda, and is operated by Food for the Hungry. The clinic was opened in 2011 as a partnership between Blood:Water Mission and Food for the Hungry and is accredited to provide HIV/AIDS care with a strong focus on prevention of mother-to-child transmission.
As I boarded the plane back to Washington, D.C., I was thankful for the opportunity to have reconnected with Senator Frist and to be part of the ceremony to honor him. In my mind, he is a true Lion of the Senate who has an incredible heart for those who are sick in this world. We are honored to walk alongside him in this journey to bring health and wholeness to those affected by HIV and AIDS.”
Watch Blood:Water Mission’s video about the New Life Medical Clinic in Kitgum Uganda: