Catholic Mission announces AIDS Day appeal

With governments stretched for funds, people are increasingly turning to the churches to respond as AIDS continues to kill millions in Africa, Catholic Mission said yesterday, announcing the launch of its forthcoming AIDS Day appeal.

As part of its preparations for World AIDS Day on 1 December, Catholic Mission has highlighted a project by the Holy Family Catholic Mission in Ofcolaco, South Africa.

Catholic Mission says that it is keeping its promise to "Stop AIDS. Keep the Promise" through its support for projects around the world.

The NGO cited the case of three-year-old girl Tshpang from the Ofcolaco mission, who was born to a HIV positive mother who developed full-blown AIDS very early in Tshpang's life.

They both arrived at Holy Family Catholic Mission when Tshpang was two, and her mother died soon after.

"Tshpang was traumatised and also very sick herself at the time of her mother's death. She refused to eat or drink for a number of days," a Catholic Mission spokesperson, Melissa Loughlin, says.

"It took a lot of love and persistence for Tshpang to improve. The sisters at Holy Family encouraged her and cared for her, and she did improve and became a happy little girl, always laughing and smiling. She loved to be held."

However, Tshpang's health soon deteriorated. She developed full-blown AIDS and her weight dropped significantly, through diarrhoea and loss of appetite. She also suffered from constant mouth sores and she developed tuberculosis.

On her last visit to hospital, Tshpang was admitted to the malnourished ward due to her extreme weight loss. "After six weeks in hospital, all she wanted was to be held, talked to, given a drink and on a good day, some food," Ms Loughlin said.

"Tshpang was a beautiful child with big brown eyes and a contagious giggle. She just could not be sick or in pain anymore.

"When the staff from Holy Family visited her for the last time, she wanted to be held and wanted a drink of juice. She was in pain and was finding it difficult to breathe. She fell asleep and three hours later she decided she had had enough and passed away. She was just three years old," Ms Loughlin concluded.

The Holy Family Catholic Mission in Ofcolaco is run by the Daughters of Our Lady of the Sacred Heart, who provide food, medical care, clothing, education and toiletries for children like Tshpang.

There are 56 small children in full-time care, 25 children in the newly-opened crèche and 24 older children going to school when well enough. There are also some mothers staying to be nursed and spiritually supported by the sisters as they die.

Catholic Mission keeping the promise on World AIDS Day (Catholic Mission 14/11/06)

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15 Nov 2006