Stephen Lewis Hosts African Experts in Toronto to Announce Critical Aid for Women's Hospital in the Congo



    - Violence against women and spread of HIV continue to escalate -

    TORONTO, June 2 /CNW/ - In response to an urgent appeal from the Panzi
hospital in eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) for support with
trauma counselling and HIV testing for survivors of sexual violence, the
Stephen Lewis Foundation will provide additional funding and seek support from
African sexual violence experts to help strengthen the capacity of the
hospital.
    For more than a decade, hundreds of thousands of women and girls in the
DRC have been brutally raped, tortured and humiliated, their bodies and
psyches broken. The Panzi hospital - a 450 bed facility - provides
reconstructive surgery and treatment to more than 3,500 women suffering from
severe internal injuries as a result of rape each year. There is only one
psychologist to provide any form of trauma counselling.
    Panzi estimates that 10% of its patients test positive for HIV. Safe
blood is in short supply, antiretroviral drugs are not widely available and
food supplies necessary for patients to tolerate their medication are
inadequate. At the press conference, panelists will discuss sexual violence
and HIV/AIDS in the DRC, the emergency support to be provided to the hospital
and the critical role that African women's organizations will play in sharing
their expertise on rape counseling in situations of conflict.

    
    WHO:      Stephen Lewis, Chair of the Stephen Lewis Foundation

              Dr. Roger Luhiriri, surgeon at the Panzi hospital in South
              Kivu, DRC (French speaker, translation will be provided)

              Betty Makoni, rape survivor and founder of The Girl Child
              Network, which has reached 60,000 girls - many survivors of
              sexual abuse - in Zimbabwe

              (xx) All spokespeople are available for 1:1 interviews (xx)

    WHEN:     11 a.m. - 12:00 p.m. on June 9, 2008

    WHERE:    MaRS Collaboration Centre
              101 College Street, Room CR-2

    WHY:      The conflict in the DRC has resulted in the largest death toll
              since World War II. The UN Under-Secretary General for
              Humanitarian Affairs has called it the worst place in the world
              for women. Despite a ceasefire agreement, rape continues to be
              used as a weapon of war. Stephen Lewis has called for the
              United Nations to double its peacekeeping force of 17,000 to
              protect women and girls.

    Contact:  Stephanie Bell / Erin O'Reilly at Media Profile
              416-504-8464 or stephanie@mediaprofile.com /
              erin@mediaprofile.com


        Since 2003, the Stephen Lewis Foundation has distributed and
        committed more than $22 million to grassroots initiatives in 15
                             African countries.

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                    Easing the pain of HIV/AIDS in Africa
                       www.stephenlewisfoundation.org
    






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