USAID is observing World AIDS Day this year by celebrating ten years of our HIV and AIDS work under PEPFAR.

As we approach World AIDS Day 2013, children affected by and living with HIV/AIDS must remain central to the global response.  As the largest funder of programs that mitigate the impact of HIV/AIDS in the lives of children worldwide, PEPFAR would like to celebrate the courage and compassion of all the caregivers, the grandmothers, the mothers and fathers, the aunts and uncles and older siblings, who have stepped forward to care for children affected by the epidemic.

GoGo means Grandmother in most South African languages. Photo credit: Tash McCarroll/USAID

“GoGo” means Grandmother in most South African languages. Photo credit: Tash McCarroll/USAID

GoGo is an old woman with a young girl’s bright smile. She lives in a small, tin-roofed, two room house in Soweto, with eight of her grandchildren. When her first daughter died of HIV, she took in her three young children, the oldest of whom was named Precious. At the time, Precious was 14. She was a clever girl who always did well in school and loved learning. When her mother became sick, Precious was forced to drop out of school to take care of her younger siblings and mother. And when her mother died, Precious moved in with her GoGo, who had no income and no means to support Precious to continue her education. Just as Precious began to lose hope, Grace walked into their lives. Grace is a Child and Youth Care Worker (CYCW) with the PEPFAR- supported Isibindi project.

CYCWs are para-social workers that support orphaned and vulnerable children whose lives have been turned upside down by HIV/AIDS. Grace helped Precious return to school and supported all of GoGo’s grandchildren to be tested for HIV. When GoGo’s younger daughter died and she took in her three children as well, Grace helped ensure they were also tested as well. And when tests indicated that none of the children were HIV-positive, GoGo and Grace were relieved, but they knew that they would have to continue to protect themselves and support these children in order to maintain healthy lives. Thanks to help from Grace, GoGo was able to complete an application and gain access to a government grant to cover basic expenses.

Grace still supports the family and visits with them twice a week. She makes sure the children are attending school and doing well psychologically, and helps GoGo to meet their other needs. GoGo still has eight children in her care, but she does not seem burdened or discouraged. She looks to the future with hope. When complimented on the care that she provides to her grandchildren, GoGo responds, “Of course I do this work. They are my children. No one can hold them like I can.”

Learn more about USAID’s role as a leading implementer of PEPFAR programs for orphans and vulnerable children.

This story is part of an ongoing series of blogs from the Office of the Global AIDS Coordinator in recognition of the 10th anniversary of PEPFAR. Previous blogs in the series can be found on the PEPFAR blog site. 

Follow @USAIDGH on Twitter through World AIDS Day, observed on December 2, for key facts, resources, and photos from our programs and partners and join the conversation using the hashtag #WAD2013.