World AIDS Day 2014 & The Jeevan Jyothi Centre

With World AIDS Day fast approaching (1st December), our blog this week is dedicated to the deadly virus and what’s being done to overcome it. We’ll also be focusing on one of our chosen charities, the Jeevan Jyothi HIV/AIDS Centre in India, the fantastic work they do to combat the spread of the infectious disease, and how they help rebuild the lives of those affected by it.

HIV or Human Immunodeficiency Virus is essentially like other common viruses, except that it hijacks the bodies T-cells (immune cells) forcing them to make copies of the virus and finally destroying them before moving on. Over a period of time, if enough of your bodies T-cells are annihilated, (which are important in fighting infections) your body can lose the ability to fight off diseases. As a result, AIDS or Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome develops, leading to increased likelihood of death from infections or other diseases because your body no longer has the ability to fight them off. Not everyone who has HIV progresses to AIDS however, as with proper antiretroviral therapy (ART), many can keep the HIV virus levels low in their bodies. The introduction of ART has meant many people today living with HIV can hope to live a normal life expectancy.

HIV/AIDS origin is believed to be from Africa, transferred to humans between 1884 and 1924, eventually making its way to the USA during the 1970’s. It’s first reported cases among gay men in Manhattan sparked widespread panic, while others fought strongly for increased awareness of the disease. A recent movie adaptation of the Normal Heart attempted to document this struggle, winning an Emmy award in the process. Nevertheless, the spread of HIV/AIDS continued, reaching Europe in 1982 and China in 1985, the disease reaching all regions of the world at this point. Today, approximately 35 million people live or battle with HIV/AIDS worldwide.

However, there are more positive signs appearing each day in the fight against HIV/AIDS, especially in Africa where the disease has been rampant for decades. Awareness is also a major factor and numerous campaigns, like this one in Australia recently, seek to raise the profile of the virus and the importance of stifling its spread. Possibly the greatest awareness campaign for HIV/AIDS is World Aids Day, which takes place on December 1st every year. In 1988, health ministers met to deliberate on AIDS, resulting in the formation of the annual event.

The reason we’ve decided to do a blog on this topic is primarily because of the close association we have with a charity combating the disease. The Jeevan Jyothi HIV/AIDS centre in Theni, India is a shining example of institutions that help those affected by the consequences of this horrible virus. 

Working with the presentation society and tailoring unit in Theni, the Jeevan Jyothi Centre seeks to help those whose lives have been detrimentally affected by HIV/AIDS. The centre offers ICTC counseling for those infected by the disease, as well as educational programs for community members for the reintegration of those suffering from HIV/AIDS. They provide an enabling environment that is free of discrimination, provide care and protection for orphans or vulnerable children, as well as capacity building training in social work. The Jeevan Jyothi Centre also actively takes part in reversing the diseases prevalence in Goa (region of India) with the support of the National Aids Control Society.

As a result of the brilliant work undertaken by the centre and those who work there, more than 5000 people have been counseled with the number increasing every day. This has contributed to a significant reduction in the number of infections across India in recent years, a 57% reduction in the overall infection rate since 2001 and 29% decrease in the rate of HIV/AIDS related deaths since 2007. Similar rates of reduction from other parts of the world are providing positive news in the fight against HIV/AIDS, but the battle is not over which is why supporting charities like the Jeevan Jyothi Centre is extremely important.

We’re proud to say we support this charity directly, by donating 5% of our profits to the centre itself. We also donate a further 5% to another Irish charity, Focus Ireland, who tackle the homeless problem across the country. Seeing the work done by the Jeevan Jyothi centre and knowing that each ethical silk purchase makes a difference in someone’s life, is something we’re delighted to be a part of!

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