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Elise Warga–Turning the Tide on AIDS in Togo

For three decades, scientists, policymakers and nonprofit leaders have worked to end to the global HIV/AIDS pandemic. Less known, but as important, are individuals who live with the disease and are changing the way their communities fight and live with the disease. Take, for example, Elise Warga a native of Togo, West Africa.

Elise is HIV positive. But instead of surrendering, she joined forces with others in her community to be part of the solution. She is one of 30 founding members of the Hope Through Health partner association that works to provide support services for persons with HIV/AIDs in her native Togo, a small sliver of land in West Africa bordered by Ghana to the west and Burkina Faso to the north. Togo has a population just over 6 million people; 3.2 percent of adults in Togo live with HIV/AIDS.

Even though she has only a fourth-grade education, Elise took on the job of association treasurer. Through training and hard work, she advanced from keeping hand-written financial records to producing financial reports using Microsoft Excel.

But that is not all. Elise has become one of Hope Through Health’s most respected senior staff members. She represents the organization, which is an Aid for Africa member, at regional conferences in neighboring Mali and provides guidance to her colleagues and a shoulder to lean on to anyone in need.

Elise represents the best of the Hope Through Health model, which empowers local leaders to raise awareness and provide support for those living with HIV. More than half of Hope Through Health’s staff is HIV positive, yet they work diligently to provide comprehensive care and treatment for its four clinics in Togo.

The 19th International AIDS Conference will be held in Washington, DC, July 22-27. Elise will not be able to join the conference, which is themed “Turning the Tide Together,” so it will be up to others to recognize her work and the work of others like her for turning the tide on HIV/AIDS in communities throughout Sub Saharan Africa and beyond.