Face AIDS was founded in 2005 by three Stanford University students—Jonny, Katie, and Lauren—who were working in a refugee camp in Zambia. While there, they met Mama Katele, a grandmother living with AIDS.
In a community of over 20,000 refugees, Mama Katele was the only person willing to speak openly about her HIV+ status, and she told Jonny, Katie, and Lauren about the devastating effects of HIV/AIDS on her community. An inspiring leader and advocate for the rights of those affected by HIV, Mama Katele died shortly after the three students met her, having never received a single dose of anti-retroviral treatment.
Through Mama Katele, the students realized how little their generation knew about the human costs of the pandemic. Determined to make a difference, the students developed a plan in which individuals affected by HIV/AIDS in sub-Saharan Africa could gain life-changing income by making beaded AIDS awareness pins. The pins, in turn, would help launch a broad-based movement to mobilize, educate, and inspire young people to turn the tide against the AIDS pandemic and fight for global health equity and social justice.
In the first two years, FACE AIDS worked with HIV+ individuals living in two refugee camps and neighboring communities in rural Zambia. These individuals used their income from making the beaded AIDS pins to establish sustainable local businesses. FACE AIDS also grew its operations to include community sensitizations, a voluntary counseling and testing center, and an HIV education through sports program.
In 2007, Partners In Health, one of the world’s premier social justice and health care organizations, invited FACE AIDS to expand our operations beyond Zambia and join them at their new site in Rwanda. FACE AIDS now works in poor, rural communities in Rwanda’s Eastern Province, focusing on HIV-affected youth. Our programs address the factors that make young people vulnerable to HIV/AIDS and poor health outcomes more broadly. Specifically, we provide youth with a social support network, empower them through income-generating activities and youth-led savings and credit cooperatives, and encourage them to become leaders in the health and development of their communities.