A message from our Executive Director


Appeal Update: SLF Partner responses to COVID-19 and HIV  (Thursday, September 10, 2020)

Dear Friend,

Quote from Sthembile Ndlovu, Director of IZ, South Africa

Since I began my tenure as the Executive Director of the Stephen Lewis Foundation seven months ago, I have been struck by two things. The first is the speed and ingenuity with which our community-based partners have pivoted to meet the challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic; the second is the unwavering commitment of the SLF’s monthly donors, like you, who remain steadfast in your solidarity with them. Your thoughtful, sustained support is invaluable.  

When I wrote to you five months ago to ask you to support our COVID-19 Appeal, thousands of you responded with humbling generosity. To date, we have raised over $330,000 through this appeal. We are profoundly grateful for your continued support.  

Thanks to your donations the SLF has been able to honour our commitments to our partners. We did not cut funding to any of our 125 current community-based partners in sub-Saharan Africa. Instead, we reached out to them to learn how we could best support them during these unprecedented times and help ensure their sustainability. We have been able to provide them with flexible funding, allowing them to shift their programming to meet the communities’ changing needs. We have also been able to facilitate a process of peer-learning on responding to COVID-19 and HIV.

Our partners have adapted in a variety of ways to mitigate the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on communities affected by HIV and to safeguard the progress made in responding to HIV and COVID-19. These are just a few examples:

Kitovu Mobile outreach to communities where public transport was banned due to COVID-19

In response to increases in gender-based violence (GBV) during COVID-19, social workers from Stepping Stones International, in Botswana, are making weekly calls to every individual and family enrolled in their programs to do welfare check-ins, assist in cases of GBV, and work on ways to curb GBV.

Given the impact of the national lockdowns and social distancing policies on access to nutritious food, Swaziland Nurses Association, in Eswatini, has prioritized establishing kitchen gardens, backyard gardens, and community gardens for their beneficiaries.

Health Options for Young Men on HIV, AIDS & STIs (HOYMAS), an SLF partner in Kenya, has procured a motorbike to deliver anti-retroviral medication and nutritious foods to clients who might otherwise not be able to adhere to their HIV treatment in the face of COVID-19.

The impacts of COVID-19 continue to challenge our partners in their work to support communities affected by HIV. Your ongoing monthly support for the Stephen Lewis Foundation makes it possible for us to be a responsive, reliable partner to the community-based organizations who are best positioned to ensure that people affected by HIV do not disproportionately suffer the impacts of COVID-19. Thank you again for your commitment to our partners' work.

In solidarity,

Meg French

Executive Director,

Stephen Lewis Foundation

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A Message from our Executive Director (Tuesday, April 7, 2020)

Dear Friend,

Meg French, Executive Director of the SLF

I’m writing this letter as I work from my home. It is not the first letter I expected to share with you as the new Executive Director of the Stephen Lewis Foundation, but it is an important one. The impact of the coronavirus is concerning for us all. As a supporter of the Stephen Lewis Foundation, I want you to know that we are continuing to provide funding and support to our partners in sub-Saharan Africa in their efforts to turn the tide of the AIDS pandemic. While how we work has changed, the support to communities affected by HIV and AIDS is ongoing and cannot be interrupted even in these unique times. The work of our community-based partners is needed now, more than ever.

Community is at the foundation of the SLF’s work. For 17 years we've partnered with grassroots organizations in their work to provide holistic support to people affected by HIV and AIDS. Turning the tide of the AIDS pandemic has required the expertise, action and commitment of many communities. Grandmothers, young people, home-based care workers, people living with HIV, and LGBTQ communities have and continue to support each other to cope with immediate challenges, to regroup and rebuild, and to continue on with their lives. Together, they restore resilience that provides hope for the future.

Every day at the SLF, we have the opportunity to hear from our partners about the people and communities who are working with such commitment to make a difference. The Kimara Peer Educators & Health Promoters Trust Fund, in Tanzania, shared with us a message that one member had for people in the community affected by HIV. It's a powerful reminder of the need to continue to support one another during challenging times:

“We need to break the stigma and silence around living with HIV by sharing our stories and letting others know they are not alone. In case no one has told you, you are doing an amazing job in taking care of yourself as well as taking care of the children under your care. You are loved and you are worthy. And you are not alone. I know how unbelievably hard it is to reach out to your peers, but I promise you it is worth it. YOU are worth it, and we should never despair.”

Over these past weeks we have seen the impact that both the stress of uncertainty and the loss of social connections can have on us, and on the people we love, but we’ve also seen the power of community. Over the coming weeks we will share stories of individual and community resilience from our partners in sub-Saharan Africa. Stories that reveal the progress that can be made when we stand in solidarity and face challenges together. I hope you find them inspiring and I encourage you to share them and help bring some optimism to this world during these uncertain times.

As with all crises, it is the most vulnerable populations that are at risk. People affected by AIDS will be doubly challenged by the impacts of the coronavirus. The holistic support they receive from our community-based partners will help them stay healthy and hopeful for the future. We are committed to maintaining the critical funding our partners require in the weeks and months ahead. If you are able to continue your support to the SLF at this time, we would be very grateful. Any level of support is always appreciated. Together, we can help ensure we don’t lose pace in the collective effort to turn the tide of AIDS in Africa.

Thank you for being part of the SLF community. Your commitment means so much to us. Stay safe, stay healthy, keep supporting one another.

In solidarity,

Meg French

Executive Director, 

Stephen Lewis Foundation

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LGBTIQ organizations in Africa reporting human rights abuses linked to COVID-19 May 19, 2020

Stephen Lewis Foundation / Canada, Press release

World will survive COVID-19 only if 'swift action' taken to help Africa, UN humanitarian says March 25, 2020

Matt Galloway and Idella Sturino, Toronto, Canada, CBC Radio: The Current

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