“Si, da Vida” – “Yes to Life” – is a small organization set up by Cathal Gallagher, a Columban Missionary.
They operate a very successful HIV prevention project in the poverty belt that surrounds Lima.
The project uses a programme for the self management of chronic diseases, applied here for those living with HIV and AIDS. The programme is delivered by people who are themselves affected by HIV and AIDS, either because they live with the virus, or because someone in their family is living with it.
When they are trained as instructors of the programme, their personal experience enables them to work closely with those who are most at risk of infection, and with those who are already living with the virus.
Their main point of contact is with those who present themselves for treatment at the hospitals and clinics in Lima in search of the anti-retroviral drugs that are necessary in order to maintain a quality of life and indeed to survive while living with HIV.
However, the lives they are leading when they present themselves are often far from ideal as they usually come from situations of poverty and vulnerability. Hence the programme aims to help those who are vulnerable to manage their situation and become proactive in seeking a better life. For example, if they are drug users or if they have fallen into prostitution in order to survive, the emphasis is put on their dignity and uniqueness as persons. They are helped to overcome the stigma and discrimination that so often causes depression and isolation for those living with HIV.
Once they become involved with “Sí, da Vida” they follow the goal of “A long life, a complete life, a life with dignity and a happy life”
I met some of the team who give up their time freely to work with those who are still living in situations of vulnerability. They each have a story to tell either about their own life or that of a loved one.
When I asked, “Why do you do this work?” they answered:
“Because I was once where these people are”;
“Because it makes me feel good to see someone escape from their vulnerability”;
“Because this is something I can do, it’s a contribution.”
Not all are living with HIV and AIDS and many work as trainers and/or have a profession related to health care, but what impressed me most about the group was their passion.
Many of them had been knocked down and knew what life was like at the bottom, but they were up and leading full and fruitful lives.
All these people know about the cycle of Symptoms: fatigue, falling ill, stress / anxiety, emotional difficulties, depression. They work with those caught in this cycle and help them to break out, as they have. Their programme is extremely successful and it was a great pleasure to meet with them.
For more about this work, visit their website: http://www.sidavidaperu.org/