Cubal is a township situated a few hundred km into the heart of Angolan territory, in Benguela province (in the centre-south of the country, along the Atlantic ocean). Here, the hospital of “Nossa Senhora da Paz” hosts our DREAM centre. Run by the Teresian Sisters, it is a reference point for health services across the region.
Angola became independent in 1975, after a lengthy liberation struggle against the Portuguese colonial regime, but alas, it was destined to be afflicted for several years by a civil war that would come to an end only in 2002.
Situated on a road that both UNITA (the guerrillas fighting the government) and the regular army used to use to travel between the south and centre of the country, Cubal township would be subjected to, from time to time, attacks by the two warring parties. Thus, the hospital – in the early nineties it was little more than a dispensary – was often called upon to respond to emergency situations. Gradually it ended up by expanding its services: as years passed, a surgery department was set up (to treat those injured by gunshots and anti-personnel landmines), as well as a malnutrition centre for children, a department to treat TBC and a laboratory for basic diagnostics with an annexed centre for transfusions.
Beyond the above-mentioned challenges, Cubal Hospital must tackle another commitment nowadays: the struggle against AIDS. Throughout years of war, AIDS prevalence rates remained quite low. But the end of hostilities, a return to normal activities and the resumption of population movements have triggered a trend of expansion of HIV infection that is extremely worrying. Intervening in a timely manner is therefore very important, not least to prevent the epidemic from assuming tragic proportions and dimensions that would be difficult to manage, like other countries of austral Africa.
It was in this scenario that the DREAM centre for the treatment of AIDS, inaugurated at the end of August 2006, started to offer antiretroviral therapy as well as mother-child prevention.
Many HIV-positive pregnant women are already receiving treatment, thanks to an operational connection with the maternity clinic at the hospital, and there are many patients from the TBC department too. Moreover, the news that a health centre has been set up to treat free-of-charge a disease that initially seemed invincible, has started to reach many places situated a good distance from Cubal. The radius of activity of the hope brought by DREAM is widening and we fervently hope this is just the beginning.
The presence of DREAM on Angolan territory is the fruit of an enduring dream, a dream that we remained obstinately faithful to despite a host of difficulties. In fact, the first appearance at our formation courses of representatives of Cubal’s Teresian Sisters dates back to August 2003.
Since then, hefty logistical and economic problems delayed the launch of antiretroviral therapy in this health centre lost in vast Angolan land. But thanks to the tenacity and faith of the Teresian Sisters, and ours, as well as – or so we believe – the prayers of many Angolans who are sick, we were ultimately able to overcome all obstacles to show concretely how love for Afri