I was sitting in a sheet metal shack. It had a concrete floor, but that did not matter much as water and mud were flowing into the doorway from outside. This was during the time that the tropical depression that eventually became Hurricane Wilma simply sat over us for about 11 days causing nearly continuous rain (causing lots of problems, but that is a different story). I was sitting next to a young woman who was emaciated and breathing shallowly about 55 times a minute. She has AIDS and this was our first contact with her (a health promoter in the neighborhood had called us).
The roof was leaking; the used corrugated sheet metal always has nail holes in it from previous uses and, while those holes do not usually make much difference, the continuous rain meant that there were continuous leaks. The young woman had wisely placed several pieces of plastic from garbage bags over her mosquito netting to create a secondary roof for her bed. My plan was to start her on an antibiotic and hope that her diarrhea improved.
If we could get her feeling a bit better, we could move on from there. From my bedside evaluation (under less than optimal conditions with no light and continuous rain on the tin roof), I was uncertain that she was even going to survive long enough for the diarrhea to improve – she was very short of breath.
I went back the next day to take her a big can of powdered Ensure, but mostly just to check on her. By the fourth day, her diarrhea was better and she was out of bed (looking even skinnier and more emaciated when sitting-up). She was short of breath from anemia (as I had hoped) and not some horrible pneumonia (as I had feared). If she can get just a bit stronger, we will get her to one of the designated treatment centers for AIDS. She is a fighter and tremendously optimistic. “I thank God for every day,” she told me. Keep praying.
Dr. Michael Dohn, SAMS Missionary
Serving with his wife Anita in San Pedro de Macorís, Dominican Republic
HIV (Human immunodeficiency virus) is a virus that breaks down the immune system in humans. The HIV virus infects the immune system causing the immune system to become less and less effective causing the carriers of HIV to become susceptible to infections. While HIV is treatable in some cases, advanced deterioration is known as AIDS (Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome).
Without medical care HIV carriers will eventually succumb to full-blown AIDS. No matter whether they succumb to AIDS, if they don’t receive treatment they will no longer be able to care for themselves or their families. This means there will be a significant number of abandoned and orphaned children.
The World Health Organization reports the following in their November 2011 Fact sheet N°360
- HIV is one of the world's leading infectious killers, claiming more than 25 million lives over the past three decades.
- There were approximately 34 million people living with HIV in 2010.
- HIV infection can be diagnosed through blood tests detecting presence or absence of antibodies and antigens.
- A cure for HIV infection has not been found but with effective treatment with antiretroviral drugs, patients can control the virus and enjoy healthy and productive lives.
- In 2010, around 6.6 million people living with HIV were receiving antiretroviral therapy in low- and middle-income countries, but over 7 million others are waiting for access to treatment.
SAMS has answered the call to circumvent HIV/AIDS and the misery it creates for the suffering and their families.
Drs. Anita and Michael Dohn are physicians serving as missionaries with La Iglesia Episcopal Dominicana through SAMS. They have documented their ministry in the following videos.
HIV/AIDS Care: Patients' Perspectives
Esperanza y Vida
AIDS Support Groups: Patients' Perspectives
How You Can Help
You may not feel called to missionary service but you can help in the fight against HIV/AIDS. The first thing you can do is PRAY about your involvement in this battle. The Lord will show you His will for your involvement in the lives of so many who need to feel His love.
People who have been called to work in the HIV/AIDS war need your financial support. SAMS will gratefully help you connect to a missionary who is involved on the front lines of this war. Your support will allow those who are there to remain and allow SAMS to SEND new missionaries to help.
GIVE financially to the fight. Create opportunities for raising funds within your church, workplace or neighborhood. Money to supply medication and medical care will literally change the lives of the HIV/AIDS victims and their families. No amount is too small when you consider that those who need help cannot work to pay for any medication.
GO! There is work to be done regarding HIV/AIDS. If the Lord is calling you to missionary service we have a place for you. Consider serving as a career missionary [create hyperlink to career missionary page] or as a Bridger [create a hyperlink] from a month up to one year. If you are interested in putting together a short-term mission team [create a hyperlink] to help the families of HIV/AIDS victims, SAMS can connect you in a variety of ways in which your time will make a difference in the lives of those who suffer.