Voice of America News (02.19.2014)
Voice of America reported that a Harlem-based nonprofit organization, the African Services Committee (ASC), had expanded its immigrant support services to include outreach, testing, and referral services for HIV/AIDS, hepatitis, and STDs. ASC served ethnic and immigrant groups from around the world, but focused on New York’s African community. The organization provided free or low-cost services for more than 12,000 New York clients in 2013.
Ethiopian refugee Asfaha Hadera founded ASC in 1981 in response to the AIDS epidemic. Mulusew Bekele, ASC’s programs operations director, stated that many Africans considered HIV infection “shameful” and that HIV/AIDS remained a taboo subject. Bekele noted that HIV-positive African immigrants “self-stigmatized” until he explained that ASC was there to serve them and that services were confidential.
With grant funding, Hadera expanded ASC services to Ethiopia in 2003, opening a clinic in the capital’s main open-air market. Local residents ran the facility according to US best practices for “transparency, accountability, and quality service.” The open-air market facility provided all services—reproductive health, family planning, nutrition, testing and counseling, and treatment—in a single location. Clinic staff also reached out to clients, many of whom were poor, HIV-positive orphans with little or no family support. ASC also serves rural clients through fully equipped clinics located in five regions of Ethiopia. ASC’s philosophy aligned with the Jewish principle that “if you save one life, you are saving the world.”