In the southern African country of Zambia, more than 85 percent of the 10 million residents live below the national poverty line, and 16 percent of the adults there are HIV positive. A Zambian woman who has seen her family torn apart by HIV and AIDS recently visited Houston to learn more about what this country is doing to fight the disease.
Doras Chirwa knows first-hand the effects of HIV and AIDS in Zambia, a country where 600,000 people have died of AIDS since 1984. A few years ago, her sister died of the disease and left her four children for Chirwa to raise. Later, her two brothers and her boss died of AIDS. Now, she’s works with the international humanitarian organization CARE, looking for ways to slow the pandemic in Zambia.
Chirwa is in Houston visiting Bering Omega Community Services, an outreach in the Montrose that provides dental care, adult daycare services and hospice care for low income residents with HIV and AIDS. She says a few years ago, 20 percent of Zambian adults were HIV positive.
According to the Centers for Disease Control, Houston has the 7th largest population of people with full-blown AIDS in the nation. Chirwa says the same factors that affect men and woman here affect people in Zambia. She says a lack of education and poverty are the driving forces behind the spread of the disease, which is now affecting more heterosexual woman than ever before.
Dan Snare is the president of the Bering Omega center and says it’s refreshing to see Chirwa looking for answers as she fights HIV and AIDS in Zambia. He says it’s a mutually beneficial relationship. He says officials here in Houston are able see see what’s working in Zambia and apply some of those methods.