On World Human Rights Day (December 10th), Sr Margaret Hosty, originally from the village of Cloonfad in County Roscommon, was presented with a Human Rights Award from the Brazilian State of Goiás, where she has lived and worked as a missionary of the Sisters of Saint Louis since 1985.
The award, presented in front of the State’s Legislative Assembly, was presented to her in recognition of her decades of dedication to human rights work on behalf of those living with HIV and AIDS in the city of Goiania (in the Midwestern region of Brazil). The Sisters of Saint Louis is a member organisation of Misean Cara, which provides funding and practical support to Irish missionary groups overseas.
Sr Margaret’s involvement in HIV/AIDS work began in 1993, while serving as a pastoral worker in a parish without a resident priest on the outskirts of Goiania, when a colleague and friend died from AIDS complications after a short illness.
“I myself knew almost nothing about AIDS at the time”, she explained. “And from seeing the discrimination my friend suffered, I realised that so many others were also ill-informed, leading to fear and stigma for those with HIV/AIDS.
“I felt I needed to do something about this, and that was how I got into working with and for people living with HIV and AIDS and founded the AAVE Group”.
Founded in 1995, the AAVE Group (in English: AIDS, Assistance, Life, Hope; in Portuguese: AIDS, Apoio, Vida, Esperança) provides support to people with HIV/AIDS and their families, including psychological support and counselling, home and hospital care visits, advice on rights and entitlements, and skills training to help people who have lost their incomes due to HIV/AIDS to become financially self-sufficient and provide for themselves and their families.
The AAVE Group is funded entirely by donations and grant funding, including support from Misean Cara, via the Irish Aid Programme.
Concerning the ongoing need for the services and human rights support of organisations like the AAVE Group, in Brazil and beyond, Sr Margaret commented, “While there is now effective treatment for AIDS, and people are no longer dying from it, there is still a lack of information which contributes to prejudice. Infections continue, but worse than the virus, is the judgment and condemnation that exclude and force those living with HIV to hide”.