New Book Published on AVSI and HIV/AIDS
Friday, 12 January 2007 00:00

Irene’s Eyes is a compilation of articles and short stories that reflect the many years of grassroots experience of AVSI (Association of Volunteers in International Service, one of the pre-eminent charitable organizations in Italy) in the global battle against the HIV/AIDS epidemic. The selections included in those book point out a method of how to aid in the development of a people by being focused intently on the people themselves, their dignity and their destiny.

"This book is not the result of a desire to participate in the debate about AIDS. The debate quite often takes on ideological connotations and it seems to based on aprioristic positions that make it difficult to face seriously all the problems connected with this disease which affects millions of people…AVSI…decided to publish this book in order to make known positive experiences that have sprung from reality and not from an idea of reality…Facts and reality cannot be questioned because facts and reality exist and can be encountered: AVSI’s volunteers and staff every day have to face dramatic situations involving real people. They encounter people who suffer, who enjoy life, who love and desire to be loved, and people who hope to find the meaning of their lives and achieve happiness, as we all find ourselves hoping in our day to day existences. Those friends not only want to prevent and fight AIDS, they also struggle against the reduction of their person to a mere sick body; it is important to cure the wounds of both the body and the soul keeping in mind that a person cannot be looked at only through the deforming lens of sickness.” (Arturo Alberti, President of AVSI Foundation, in the Preface Education, the Route to Development)

Irene’s Eyes chronicles AVSI’s experiences in Uganda, Rwanda, Nigeria and Romania through narratives that weave together historical and technical information with personal stories, thus giving the reader an experience that is informative, moving and inspiring. Books that deal with the issue of HIV/AIDS rarely strike this balance between medical technicality and the appeal of the human dimension of the disease. Irene’s Eyes is refreshing because it relates with great simplicity how the staff and volunteers—local and foreign—of an organization that is truly committed to the well-being of others have found themselves face-to-face with this horrific epidemic, how they have first embraced and loved the people with this disease, and then how they have helped to build support networks that address needs ranging from medical to economic, educational to emotional. In large part, this book relates the experiences of AVSI staff with real people as they have discovered their HIV status and moved on to face the facts and deal with the reality of this disease. Yet the book does not shy away from the hotly discussed topic of HIV prevention and the debates which must arise therein and are addressed in Part Two of the book.


"For some time, in fact, Elly and his wife had known that they both had AIDS. When it became common knowledge, their friends and relatives totally abandoned them. And a progressive descent into hopeless depression. Until one day, almost by chance, Irene was invited to a meeting with a group of friends. From that day on, her face began to shine again in its former beauty, emanating these same feelings to her husband. Looking at the moon, Elly realized that there was still beauty, in spite of the illness, and he had seen it in his wife’s face. And that for those who suffer from AIDS, the only way to be happy was to be with friends who made you lift your eyes up to the sky.” (Valentina Frigerio, in Irene’s Eyes)


AVSI's engagement in the struggle against HIV/AIDS and in favor of those affected by it has steadily increased over time in response to the on-the-ground situations encountered by our staff. AVSI is currently a prime implementing organization of a $7.5 million grant within the Presidential Emergency Fund for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) managed by the US Agency for International Development that is currently on-the-ground in Uganda, Rwanda and Kenya.

 

Irene's Eyes is available for purchase at the following on-line bookstore: http://www.trinstore.com/ecom_2/item_view.cfm?inventoryid=1430