December 13, 2005 Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, United States …. [Taashi Rowe/ANN]

While it is not a hospital, many have testified that the love and warmth experienced in churches can be a healing balm for the soul. Oscar and Eugenia Giordano, both medical doctors who agree with the concept, are working to help Seventh-day Adventist churches in Africa become “support centers for the communities in the fight against HIV and AIDS.”

With the message that the church can be more than a place just to go once a week, the Giordanos shared their own experiences as director and associate director for the Adventist AIDS International Ministry (AAIM) office in Johannesburg, South Africa at the annual American Public Health Association (APHA) meeting Dec. 13. APHA is the oldest and largest organization of public health professionals in the world. This year’s meeting is being held in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, United States.

The Giordanos joined other presenters in exploring the link between faith and health at the meeting. In promoting the faith-health meetings, APHA says, on its Web site, “according to literature, faith-based organizations can help fill an essential role in providing programs and services to local communities. Some would even say that faith-based organizations are more effective in enabling people to overcome personal health challenges.”

According to the Giordano’s, about 20 percent of Adventist church members in Southern Africa and about 10 percent in Eastern Africa are HIV positive. AAIM has been helping churches find ways to reach out to people living with HIV/AIDS in eight Sub-Saharan African countries since 2003.

Love and compassion is one of the main components used in the implementation and approach to those infected and affected by this epidemic, said Dr. Oscar Giordano.

“In most of the churches there are many people willing to participate in the outreach to PLWHA [People living with HIV and AIDS], but the reality is that they do not know how to help. This approach gives the opportunity for them to ‘know how’ and to fulfill their mission,” Dr. Giordano continued.

Some of this outreach includes forming support groups, leading workshops about how to live with the disease, visiting those who are sick and providing income-generating activities for those infected with the disease.

The Giordano’s said the purpose of the presentation was threefold: to define a program with new possibilities in the fight of HIV/AIDS; develop a new perspective and approach to fight HIV/AIDS in the communities; and apply an action plan from the presentation.

“More and more faith-based initiatives are of interest for big organizations like governments and universities,” said Dr. Giordano. “They are looking to partner with faith-based organizations, especially those that offer training and practical solutions.”

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Copyright (c) 2005 by Adventist News Network

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