For more than 25 years, the Elizabeth Glaser Pediatric AIDS Foundation (EGPAF) has fought for the health of mothers and children worldwide. When I attended EGPAF's Global Impact Award Gala Dinner this past December, I was fascinated to learn how many people were inspired by Elizabeth's story and moved to take action because of her legacy. It shows that change can be made in communities by people sharing their stories and fighting for positive change -- by people being ambassadors.
Elizabeth's story of losing her daughter, Ariel, to AIDS, resonates with me personally as I also lost a child to this deadly virus in 1997. Becoming an HIV-positive Ambassador for EGPAF felt natural to me -- I had a story to tell. By following Elizabeth's example and sharing my experiences, I also try to move people to action.
EGPAF became the first donor at the Chris Hani Baragwanath Hospital in Soweto, Johannesburg, South Africa, where I was first diagnosed with HIV and later worked as an HIV/AIDS counselor. EGPAF's support has helped save so many children's lives. The passion and commitment of people at EGPAF are another reason I became an Ambassador.
We are just starting to win the battle against HIV/AIDS. There are fewer babies being born with HIV thanks to the work of thousands, perhaps even millions, of people involved in fighting this virus. We may even be only a few years away from the possibility of a functional cure. However, there are still 700 babies infected with HIV each day.
We need to strengthen our voices and involvement in the fight against HIV/AIDS. EGPAF strives to ensure women affected by HIV/AIDS are heard -- I am one such woman. Together we manage to bring attention to ability of local governments and partners to influence policy in a positive way.
Through advocacy, education, funding and support, women like me are given the chance to have a family. Despite losing my first husband and child to HIV, witnessing HIV-positive mothers in my clinic giving birth to HIV-negative children encouraged me to try as well. After remarrying, my husband and I have been blessed with two children; Alexander and Kulani, who are both HIV-free.
My life has never been the same, the joy that I was given has been largely because of the work of EGPAF and the endless efforts the South African government and its partnership with the U.S. President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR).
Today, I am healthy and able to contribute positively in my community and abroad. I am taking a stand and my voice will be heard. But we need more voices -- we need more people to stand up and convince everyone to take action to ensure that no child will be born with HIV.
I believe that Elizabeth has paved the way for us -- she is my hero and I will forever celebrate her efforts. I hope one day our fight will be a story that I will tell my children and my grandchildren. Join us in this fight and make a difference -- there is an ambassador in you as well!
Florence Ngobeni-Allen has been an Elizabeth Glaser Pediatric AIDS Foundation (EGPAF) Ambassador for more than 15 years. As an Ambassador, Florence travels the world inspiring others by sharing her deeply moving personal journey with HIV/AIDS and advocating on behalf of HIV-positive mothers everywhere.
To learn more about the Ambassador program at the Elizabeth Glaser Pediatric AIDS Foundation, contact Jayme Aronberg at firstname.lastname@example.org.