APPOINTED IN 2013, AS U.S. PRESIDENT'S EMERGENCY PLAN FOR AIDS RELIEF (PEPFAR) HERO, KEtty OPOKA DIED ON MAY 15, 2017 SURROUNDED BY HER FAMILY AND many OF THOSE SHE WELCOMED OVER THE PAST 27 YEARS
Ketty Opoka came to the United States on a few occasions over the past ten years hosted by AVSI-USA. In 2005, Ketty was honored with an award at the Bridge Builders Conference at Harvard University. In 2007, she participated in the launch of the book “Kop Ango? A day in the life of Northern Uganda” by Roberto Fontolan at George Washington University (GWU) in Washington, DC, and in other meetings at the United Nations in New York. In 2012, she returned as a panelist at “Born FREE from HIV: PMTCT Lessons Learned from Uganda” a side-event organized by AVSI-USA within the XIX International AIDS Conference in Washington, DC. The presentation was organized o raise awareness about the successful methodology used by AVSI and Meeting Point Kitgum for the Prevention of Mother-To-Child Transmission (PMTCT) of HIV in Uganda.
It was through these encounters here and additional visits of AVSI-USA staff and friends to Uganda that a great personal friendship beyond the connection of our organizations was cemented with Ketty. Her witness was one of true tenderness for the life and well-being of others, in particular for the most vulnerable and suffering.
In 2013, the U.S. Embassy in Uganda appointed Ketty as a U.S. President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) Hero, an individual who has dedicated her efforts towards an AIDS-free generation in the country.
It was an accurate recognition. Ketty’s work to improve the quality of life of the sick and dying changed countless lives in the districts of Kitgum, Lamwo and Pader. In addition to her own six children, she cared for nine other orphans in her own home. For almost 30 years, Ketty worked day in and day out to ease the burden and suffering of those living with HIV. Hundreds, if not thousands, of babies were born AIDS-free due to her commitment to women and ensuring the proper care during pregnancy and delivery so that all mothers could experience the joy of healthy childbirth. While Meeting Point lacked many resources, such as transportation to reach the farthest households, Ketty never relented, at times riding a bicycle for over 30 kilometers to visit her HIV/AIDS clients. The walls of Meeting Point Kitgum were covered with handwritten lists of clients, maps of the region, and charts reflecting who from the team would visit which client and when. Simple tools that were used with professionalism but also with great love.
Certainly, from heaven, Ketty will continue to watch over each one of her neighbors and friends..
Rest in peace, Ketty Opoka.