GAIA Country Director Joyce Jere visits Menlo Park

by Linda Hubbard Gulker on November 7, 2018

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A number of local churches, including Christ Church (Portola Valley), St. Bede’s (Menlo Park) and Trinity (Menlo Park) have been long time supporters of GAIA — Global Aids Interfaith Alliance — and last month it was Trinity who got a visit from GAIA Country Director Joyce Jere.

GAIA provides basic health services — targeting prevention, care, and support — in communities affected by HIV, AIDS, TB and malaria in Africa. It is a non-profit, non-governmental 501(c)(3) organization that was founded in June 2000 by an Episcopal priest and UCSF doctor in response to the global HIV/AIDS epidemic.

Atherton residents Marty and David Arscott hosted a lunch with Joyce after the church service. Marty was Chair of the organization’s Board of Trustees from 2010-2015 and a recipient of the GAIA Global Citizen Award in 2015.

This year, GAIA will provide approximately 275,000 client sick visits at its mobile clinics in Southern Malawi and is also providing comprehensive scholarships to 89 nurses currently in university in both Malawi and Liberia.

The organization has launched new partnerships with U.K.-based Sentebale Foundation and Grassroots Soccer to support HIV prevention among adolescent boys and girls, and is currently working with The Elizabeth Taylor Foundation and the U.S. President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief through the One Community Program to reach men for HIV testing and linkage to care.

“Sixty percent of HIV cases in Malawi are women, but the vast majority of deaths are men,” Joyce explained to her lunch companions. “Men were not coming to the clinics, but now we are focusing on men at Sunday clinics.”

In 2015, Trinity raised funds to purchase the mobile clinic Gracie and has continued to support it since then. “Our youth minister, Patrick Kangrga , came up with the name “Gracie,” said GAIA trustee and Trinity parishioner Laurie Hunter. “I interpret it as the Grace of God which has come into the lives of people more than an hour’s walk from medical care. They now have it close at hand, saving lives and lessening suffering.”

Gracie is one of the mobile clinics that is now offering men’s health screening along with family days. “We’ve started a campaign of male champions,” explained Joyce. “They wear t-shirts that say ‘I know my HIV status.’ This has been a significant step.”

More information about the work of GAIA and its programs is available online.

Photo of Joyce Jere by Linda Hubbard (c) 2018; photo of Gracie courtesy Trinity Church

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