Aids Activist Urges US To Keep Funding Aids Programmes

Westerhof, the former wife of former Dutch Zimbabwe national soccer team coach Clemence Westerhof, and Executive Director of Public Personalities against AIDS Trust in Zimbabwe, is among the four
African religious leaders active in HIV treatment, care and support visiting the US for a one week from 12 – 20 November 2011.

She told Radio VOP from Washington DC on Friday that together with her group they will speak directly to key U.S. constituencies about the impacts of U.S. HIV/AIDS programs in their communities and the critical need for strong continued U.S. support in the future.

The advocacy is dubbed “Women, HIV and the Faith Community: Bringing the Voice of Africa to Washington DC.”

She said the Washington visit would include calls to key figures in the U.S. government, roundtables with U.S. civil society and church groups and interactions with the university community.

“UNAIDS/USO  worked directly with a partner U.S. advocacy organization to arrange  the travel of the women to two key congressional districts so that they could tell their stories directly at the local community constituent level, a critical link in the U.S. political context,” said Westerhof.

The U.S. government is the largest contributor to the global AIDS response, accounting for more than half (54.5%) of all contributed resources.

This contribution is in part the result of the efforts of multiple advocacy organizations that have worked to ensure a long-term U.S. commitment.

“Unfortunately, continued and expanded U.S. support may be at risk due in large part to the global economic crisis and the continued downturn in the US domestic economy.  This trend could have a dramatic impact on poor communities that benefit from the U.S. support,” she said.

“In partnership with key advocacy organisations with grassroots reach and advocacy expertise both in Washington and in congressional districts, UNAIDS Washington facilitates an advocacy tour and forum
that will inform US policy makers and their staff, global health advocates, and the media about the importance of sustaining HIV programs and investing in women’s health in spite of the global economic crisis.

“The objective of this effort is to help reinforce the reality that significant cuts in global health funding could have not only enormous impact on poor communities, but also impact U.S. national security and
long-term economic prosperity,” she added.

Westerhof is a graduate with a Diploma in Biblical Studies and Christian Leadership from Africa Multination for Christ College (AMFCC) has for the past four years has led HIV and AIDS mitigation efforts and activities in several faith based organizations in Zimbabwe.

The other participants are Pastor Blandina Faustine Sawayau from Evangelical Lutheran Church in Tanzania, Pastor Patricia Sawu and Pastor Kitale from Kenya.