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Carrying on Diana’s Legacy of Compassion

By Tom Watson on May 16, 2007No Comment

 Carrying on Diana's Legacy of Compassion 

 

Carrying on Diana’s Legacy of Compassion 
By: Kristina Miletic, 5/16/2007

 There was a sense of community at Balboa Park in San Diego yesterday at the national launch of the Diana Legacy Fund.  Together, the crowd rose to its feet with the music of the World Beat Center African Drum and Dance Ensemble, and together, the crowd sat in silence faced with the harsh statistics up on the screen:

  • In 2006, an estimated 24.7 million individuals in the sub-Saharan region were living with HIV/AIDS, accounting for 63% of all HIV/AIDS victims worldwide.
  • In 2006, 2.9 million individuals died as a result of HIV/AIDS.
  • Over 2 million children in sub-Saharan Africa are living with HIV/AIDS. This accounts for 90% of all children affected by HIV/AIDS worldwide.

(Figures taken from the 2006 UNAIDS Global Report)

The HIV/AIDS pandemic and the desperate need for care in sub-Saharan Africa are well documented. The Diana Legacy Fund is a call to action. Named in honor of Princess Diana, the Fund was established to support programs that encourage and sustain hospice and palliative care in the region. It is managed by the National Hospice Foundation (NHF) and its Foundation for Hospices in Sub-Saharan Africa (FHSSA). The initiative advances partnerships and collaboration between U.S. hospices and international organizations, and its mission is to increase the quality and availability of hospice care and to advocate for increased support of palliative care in Africa.

The inaugural ceremony opened with a procession of 50 San Diego school children carrying white roses each child representing 10,000 African children who have died from HIV/AIDS in the past year. Together, they ushered in the event’s keynote speaker, The Most Reverend Desmond Tutu, Archbishop Emeritus. While acknowledging the reality of the HIV/AIDS pandemic, Archbishop Tutu was optimistic that the global community would band together to ease the suffering of millions in their final days.

The 1987 photograph of Princess Diana holding the hands of an AIDS patient helped to change public misconceptions surrounding HIV/AIDS.  During his opening remarks, Archbishop Tutu commented, “This picture did more to de-stigmatize this illness than all the sermons an Archbishop could preach.” In recent years, Archbishop Tutu has become a passionate advocate for end-of-life care, and an icon of hope and compassion. When he referenced the UNAIDS statistics, he quoted his friend, Graça Machel, the wife of Nelson Mandela, and asked the audience to think of these statistics not just as numbers, but as faces the face of a mother, a brother, a child.  He asked the audience to imagine what it would feel if two jumbo jets crashed each day, leaving no survivors. These are the 600 people buried each day in South Africa.

In Africa, only a small fraction of the dying have access to appropriate services, including adequate pain medication. While worldwide attention is focused on many necessary aspects of the HIV/AIDS pandemic, including prevention and vaccine development, little attention is paid to the humanitarian needs of care for the dying to alleviate this unimaginable suffering. Phil DiSorbo, founder and Executive Director of the FHSSA, stressed the importance of hospice care alongside prevention efforts and medical treatment. In hospice care, particular attention is given to the prevention, assessment, and treatment of pain and other symptoms, and to the provision of psychological, emotional and spiritual support. This type of support is crucial during the final days of a person’s life, at a time when the underlying disease can no longer be treated or cured.

Following yesterday’s launch, a national outreach campaign will begin to focus on the immense humanitarian need and to raise financial support for the Diana Legacy Fund. The Fund has a goal of raising $10 million in five years. To date, the Diana, Princess of Wales Memorial Fund in London has been the lead donor, along with a number of local corporations, foundations, and individuals. In videotaped messages, Bill Clinton and Elton John also lent their support to the Fund’s mission.

As he acknowledged the daunting task at hand and ambitious goal of the fund, Archbishop Tutu called upon the philanthropic community to make an impact on the lives of millions and to help fulfill the mission of the Diana Legacy Fund.  A great strength of the Diana Legacy Fund thus far has been its ability to bring together organizations in the U.S. and Africa, with support from dignitaries, celebrities, local corporations, foundations, and individuals.  Archbishop Tutu’s appeal was to the power of community and of coalition working in partnership towards a common goal.

To learn more about the Diana Legacy Fund: http://www.dianalegacyfund.org/
To learn more about the National Hospice Foundation: http://www.nationalhospicefoundation.org/
To learn more about the Foundation for Hospices in Sub-Saharan Africa: www.fhssa.org/

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